Monday, February 5, 2018

335: Preventing Paintings from Cracking

–IN time nearly every oil painting will crack. But the challenge is to postpone that inevitability as long as possible. If you observe the paintings of Van Gogh, and other paintings of that era, you will see significant cracks in the lightest parts of the paintings. I attended a Maxfield Parrish retrospective a few years ago, and every painting was severely cracked. The painting surfaces looked like crazed porcelain plates–an unfortunate circumstance, especially since some of the paintings were less than 50 years old.

So how do we prevent paintings from cracking, especially with thick impasto passages that present additional challenges? There are several factors that lead to cracking. One of the easiest to control is the flexibility of the painting surface. Images painted on cradled wooden panels from the middle ages (some over 500 years old) show no signs of cracking. Many contemporary artists are painting on cradled aluminum panels that are extremely resistant to flexing. This is the current gold standard in painting surfaces. As you can imagine they are quite expensive. The solution, until I can afford aluminum panels, is to prepare stretched canvas on stretcher bars using acrylic technology.

The goal of canvas preparation is to make the surface stiff and impermeable to moisture. To make the surface less flexible, use the thickest canvas possible–somewhere between a 7 and 10 ounce is best. Stretch the canvas as tightly as your stretcher bars will permit. Use canvas pliers and heavy-duty stretcher bars if necessary. Paint the front of the stretched, raw canvas with a coat of matte acrylic medium. This will inhibit moisture from passing through the canvas and stop delamination of the oil paint from the gessoed surface. Some suggest priming the back of the canvas with an acrylic medium, but this can cause puckering of the back surface which can create surface distortions on the front of the canvas. Such stress will result in cracking. Never adhere anything to the back of the canvas (even a certificate of provenance).

To seal my canvases I apply Golden Colors Fluid Matte Medium to the front. Golden is a reputable company, and I prefer to use their mediums to ensure all the acrylic products will successfully cross-link in the preparation process. Cross-linking is a process where a chemical bond is created by the proximity of two layers of acrylic. When a plastic bag is left on a plastic surface, and you return later to find that the two substances have bonded together, that is cross-linking. It is a very powerful type of chemical bonding, and you want to foster such links in every layer of your acrylic applications.

The reason you apply a layer of acrylic matte medium first is you want the canvas to be impervious to humidity and to completely isolate the canvas from the layer of oil paint that will be applied later. The matte medium provides such an impermeable layer, both from the subsequent oil on top and humidity from below, while creating a surface the next layer of acrylic gesso can cross-link to. If the Fluid Matte Medium doesn't soak into the canvas easily, add acrylic wetting release.

Over the top of the dry acrylic matte medium apply two to three layers of acrylic gesso. The reason you don't paint oils directly onto the dried layer of Fluid Matte Medium is that oil will not chemically cross-link to acrylic. A physical, not a chemical bond, must take place between acrylic and oil. Gesso contains calcium carbonate (marble dust) to facilitate physical bonding. The marble dust additive makes the acrylic gesso medium porous. The porosity allows the oil to seep into the gessoed surface creating microscopic interlocking nodules. These nodules lock together like a zipper or velcro and form the mechanism of the acrylic/oil adhesion. Anything that inhibits this interlocking action, like adding a non-porous layer of acrylic medium or acrylic paint, will cause the oil to eventually delaminate from the acrylic surface.

Once my canvases are sealed and gessoed, it is possible to tint the surface with a thin acrylic wash. I prefer using Golden Colors' High Flow Acrylics because I can get a dark tint without having to use excessive amounts. You don't want to add too many washes as it will clog the porous nature of the gesso necessary for proper adhesion. One or two thin washes of the highly potent High Flow Acrylics will provide a deep color without clogging the gessoed surface.

I highly suggest sealing and gessoing canvases in this manner even if your canvases are commercially prepared (unless they are oil primed. Acrylic over oil will not adhere properly). Many formerly reputable companies are off-shoring their products, and the gessoed surfaces are often of dubious quality and will lead to cracking–sometimes within years, not decades.

This might seem like an elaborate process, but it is one that will prevent paintings from cracking well into the next century.

Brad Teare –February 2018

Above: Desert Journey, 20" x 24", oil on canvas, available at Anthony's Fine Art

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

344: Playing with Pinterest

–I HAVE mentioned several times that Pinterest and Instagram are my favorite social media platforms. Instagram has proved useful, and I've sold paintings posted on my feed. I have largely abandoned Twitter and Facebook (I find them annoying at best) although I maintain my accounts for the benefit of those following on those platforms. If you enjoy Instagram I hope to see you there (click here to follow).

I used Pinterest to select fixtures and decor for my new studio, and it's a great way to archive favorite paintings and collect reference material. I know many people use Pinterest for connecting with collectors and galleries, but as yet I haven't discovered how to use it for that purpose. Some of the Pinterest features remain mysteries to me–such as the Pincode feature (see the photo above). Pincodes, which work like QR codes, are touted as beneficial for commercial endeavors. But for the small business person, I don't see the utility.

Pinterest also has a widget generator (see below), but again I'm not sure of the advantage (although it has a button to export to Facebook, which might prove more irritating than useful).

If you are a Pinterest Power User I hope you will let us know how it can best be used and how it works for you. Many thanks!

Brad Teare –January 2018

Monday, January 29, 2018

343: The Power of Your Environment

–ONE of my favorite philosophers, Jordan Peterson, wrote; You are neither your own master nor your own slave. You cannot easily tell yourself what to do and compel your own obedience.

This raises a question, if we are neither our own slave nor slavemaster, what can we do to modify our behavior? An intriguing answer came in an advanced readers copy of the book Willpower Doesn't Work by Benjamin Hardy. According to Hardy's premise, willpower isn't what you need to succeed. In fact, efforts to be your own slavemaster can backfire and ultimately defeat you.

Instead, to change your nature Hardy recommends changing your environment. The basic premise is described in the first chapeter–Every Hero is the Product of a Situation: Understanding the Power of Surroundings. The title explains the basics and I found further explanation fascinating. The main idea is that our environment defeats us or propels us forward in powerful ways that few fully understand. 

Later chapters detail why willpower is overvalued, how to outsource motivation, and how High Stress/High Recovery environments promote success (among other topics). The last concept is so interesting I hope to devote an entire blog post to it shortly.

Some of the ideas are well known by artists, such as how designating a specific space to paint will help you succeed. But it is interesting to read exactly why such modifications to our environments have such a powerful effect.

One of the most practical chapters, about using Forcing Functions to achieve goals, helped me see how I intuitively used Forcing Functions in the past and how I can consciously use the concept with greater effectiveness in the future. A Forcing Function is a strategy that forces you to comply with a goal. For example, if you want to get more exercise you might rent a studio close to your home so you can walk every day. The distance is calculated to be long enough to give adequate exercise yet short enough you won't be tempted to drive. I purposely have no internet connection nor cable TV in my studio–I can't waste time with those endeavors even if I wanted to. Such deprivation, a type of Forcing Function, also ensures I have time to get bored–since boredom is a powerful catalyst for creativity.

At 225 pages of well-crafted, easy prose, the book is a quick read and one of the best I have read in its category. For those perhaps too acquainted with self-help literature (I count myself in that category), this book gives a refreshing and productive spin on a familiar subject.

Brad Teare –January 2018

Above: Trinchera Stream, 20" x 20", available at Anthony's Fine Art

Thursday, January 11, 2018

342: The Power of Newsletters

–MY original article about defeating a creative block was condensed and included in a newsletter for Plein Air Magazine (read it here). I've already received several emails regarding the paintings and regard such exposure as critical to expanding one's art career. Most requested links to the original article or to relevant posts regarding painting in my style. If you want more articles, type the subject matter into the search field to the right. I have found it to be extremely effective. I use it myself when I need to find older posts. If you want to subscribe to the blog there is a sign-up field further down in the right column.

If new readers would like to follow my painting journey on Instagram my feed is here. Instagram is my preferred social media and I use it to simultaneously post to Twitter and Facebook (although I'm rarely if ever on those feeds).

Many thanks to editor Steve Doherty of Plein Air Magazine for selecting my article for inclusion in their newsletter.

Brad Teare –January 2018

Above: Golden Hills, 48" x 48", oil on canvas.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

341: Is Painting Still Relevant?

–AS my exploration of digital media continues I decided to check out Quora. I've answered a few questions relating to art on the site and have found it an interesting resource (most recently I asked the question about how to get attention for one's art outside the usual purview of art galleries. I received many excellent ideas).

Recently I answered the question is painting still relevant? If you haven't read my response on Quora here is my answer:

When I was in art school I was taught that certain artistic expressions were obsolete. The teachers explained that painting in an impressionist style was passé because the impressionists of the 19th century had explored all there was to explore in that genre. This was true, they said, with every preexistent art form. Such tired ways of thinking are still prevalent.

Simplification of the creative process is a post-modernist mode of thinking and uses an erroneous Darwinian model. It says that we consume styles as they are created, like a succession of animals going extinct to make way for superior life forms. Once impressionism, abstract expressionism, and other forms of painting are invented, they live for a season, and then go extinct. One of the many flaws of post-modernism is that such thinking uses the Darwinian metaphor incorrectly.

A more accurate use of the evolutionary model would be to envision art as an ecosystem. As we observe the system, we can expect every niche to eventually be occupied by a relevant art form. Just like the Arctic is populated by unique animals we can expect every artistic niche to be occupied by a type of art that conforms to that niche. We should expect abstract painting to emerge in large urban areas to reflect the international style of large cities. Areas of great natural beauty would foster artists expressing their interaction with that world. Performance art would flourish in areas where political life is perceived as a more dominant reality. The larger reality is that no real artist conforms to any metaphor, no matter how compelling.

Expectation of conformity in the art world is nonsense. Artists cannot be expected to reject authentic expression simply because it is out of fashion. Art can be many things, and art forms such as impressionism, tonalism, regionalism, and social realism can persist long after academics in metropolitan areas declare them extinct.

I practice what I hope is a unique variation of impressionist painting. I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth. To confine myself to the philosophical world of performance art, or other non-painting forms of art would make no sense. Painting will not only remain relevant, but every previous form of painting will be used and reconfigured into new and vibrant styles of painting.

In short, the news of the death of painting has been greatly exaggerated.

If you would like to see my personal painting evolution, including abstraction, impressionism, and marker paintings, please see my Instagram feed here:

Brad Teare –January 2018

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

340: Using a Failed Acrylic Painting as an Underpainting

–I transferred my acrylic supplies to my new studio in the hopes of doing some large abstract landscape acrylics–even though I don't have my gas fireplace installed yet. The temperature outside is around 10ºF (-12ºC). I tried to work despite the temperature, dressing in layers of clothing to ward off the bitter cold. I had two space heaters going full blast, but they still weren't enough to combat the winter chill. My efforts were defeated and after five hours I retreated to the warmth of my house where I spent the next two hours trying to warm up.

I was going to film my progress as I painted but only completed a six-minute intro. Despite the cold, I pushed the painting forward without filming so this segment remains a one-off and will not have a sequel. I thought the idea of using an old acrylic painting as a point of departure for a new painting might be of interest to some, so I posted the video below. During the painting process, I did have good results with a painting medium made by Liquitex called Liquithick Thickening Gel. You mix the medium with acrylic paint and the paint gets remarkably thicker. It's quite interesting and I wish I could buy it by the gallon (although a little goes a long way).

I thought the video might be a good test to see how my Udemy course might be received. The new studio has superior acoustics and lighting and has the potential for superior audio as well as video. Overall I thought the audio was an improvement over what I've produced so far.

Painting in my new studio was an interesting experiment–the light is amazing, but unfortunately, I need to get that fireplace installed before I can move forward with the Udemy class. Patience is a virtue–and a necessary one for artists. Let me know what you think of the video. I hope to have more soon.

Brad Teare –December 2017

Using a failed acrylic as an underpainting from Brad Teare on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

339: Using Acrylic Markers with an Underpainting

–IN an attempt to unify my woodcut and my painting style I've been experimenting with using a woodcut-like underpainting as a preliminary to my oil paintings. I began experimenting with acrylic markers after trying them out on a public graffiti wall at a conference I recently attended. I found the process remarkably like the woodcut or scratchboard process. 

I use Golden High Flow Acrylics, in black and white, loaded into empty Montana markers. The markers are an extremely flexible way to draw–I coat the canvas with black acrylic paint before using the markers. The less absorbent the surface the better. I then use the white markers to add the lights and the black markers as a kind of eraser where I can return to the black of the original surface by simply painting over the erroneous white lines.

If you want to see how I work in this new medium, I hope you will check out my Instagram feed. I have several examples of the technique including two videos I posted yesterday of an underpainting (the black and white drawing above) I did for a painting I will be painting today. I've been enjoying Instagram and have found it to be more reliable than Youtube (although all my videos are now back on-line).

If you have questions about this new experiment in underpainting I hope you will feel free to comment either here or on Instagram.

Brad Teare –December 2017

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

338: Triggering a Transformation

–IN a previous post, I mentioned that I avoided plein air painting for three years. When I returned to the practice last summer, I was able to paint without inhibition at a much higher level of expertise. The transformation intrigued me because according to books like Outliers progress is achieved only with years of deliberate practice.

Due to the positive leap forward, which included two years painting abstractions, I wanted to understand and replicate the process. In my search for answers, I found the book Reductionism in Art and Brain Science. The author, Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel, explores how reductionism—the distillation of large concepts into smaller, more tractable ideas—is used by scientists and artists to pursue their respective truths. He explores explicitly how abstract art can stimulate the brain causing unexpected creative connections. Although I have yet to finish the book, it promises to explain my unexpected improvement.

After mounting two shows with a total of 38 landscape paintings, I found I not only needed a break, I also had a strong urge to trigger a similar transformation. Due to a recent and serendipitous encounter with graffiti art, I settled on painting with acrylic markers as the focus of my experimentation. The technique resembles my scratchboard work as well as my woodcuts, only much larger. I showed preliminary efforts to one of my galleries and we scheduled a show for May 2018.

 Although I'm pleased with my recent landscape progress, it isn't enough. In today's competitive environment it isn't sufficient to be one of the best painters in your genre–you have to be the ONLY painter in your genre. In other words, you have to be the only practitioner of an inimitable style. Explorations with marker painting might provide the final transformation. Do I intend to paint this way from now on? Like my foray into abstraction, I plan to use the process to transform my landscape painting. How it will do so is anyone's guess. But I look forward to the results.

I will give a full review of Reductionism in Art and Brain Science as soon as I finish it. If you want to follow my marker painting progress, please follow my Instagram account here.

Brad Teare –December 2017

Above: Cryptographica, 24" x 48", available from Alpine Art.

Monday, November 20, 2017

337: Smashing a Creative Block

–ALTHOUGH I always loved painting outdoors, my plein air work lagged far behind the authenticity of my studio work. On a good day, I could achieve an imitation of a good painting. But an absence of genuineness dogged my efforts. Even if others overlooked my plein air inadequacies, I knew I was faking it. I was using studio techniques in the field without fully immersing myself in the observational and recording process necessary to discovering nature's subtleties. I was capturing the form of the landscape but not the essence. I wondered if I could ever paint with full confidence in the field.

Over a decade ago I attended a prestigious artists residency where at the end of the day my host asked to see my field paintings. I was embarrassed they weren't better and said, "plein air painting is like fishing–sometimes you don't return with a fish." It was a sentiment I read somewhere (and it is often true), but I knew it was an excuse. I should have said, "I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm here hoping that by some path I don't understand one day I will paint successfully in the field". At the time outdoor painting seemed so complicated, I despaired that my plein air work would ever have the same vitality as my studio paintings.

After a particularly humbling effort at a well-known plein air festival in 2014, I stowed my Gloucester easel and retired my plein air credentials. Three years later I was interviewed on a podcast about my painting career and asked if I painted outdoors like the early impressionists. I explained that I had tried my hand at the art but had been frustrated by its complexity and the lack of satisfaction my efforts gave me.

I prematurely assumed it wasn't possible to paint in the field with the same confidence as in the studio–especially since my intention was to paint with thick strokes of vibrating color, exactly as I did in the studio. I consoled myself with the probability that there was a reason most painters avoided painting impasto in the field. But the desire persisted–Pissarro painted with heavy paint. So did Van Gogh. I always knew I would return to plein air painting and the interviewer's question rekindled the spark of earlier enthusiasm. 

Coincidental to these realizations, I made a breakthrough in the studio by sidestepping the issue of excellence and allowing myself to embrace mediocrity. I even taped a sign on the wall that read, "Just Be Mediocre." Paradoxically, the relaxation encouraged by such a humorously blasé attitude allowed me to paint at a higher level. Performance anxiety was apparently playing a larger role in my painting than I thought. With nearly twenty years of deliberate practice behind me, I was able to relax into a routine. Being mediocre, or performing at a routine level, was exactly what I needed to do–provided that the routine produced a satisfying painting. I shifted my focus from trying for excellence to creating paintings that allowed a sense of exploration and achieved a satisfying aesthetic effect. I also had recently read that if I displaced negative internal dialog such as "I'm really nervous" with a more positive phrase like "I'm so excited" I subverted self-destructive negativity and would achieve the emotional balance necessary to produce more satisfying work.

In the interview mentioned above, I stated that although I wasn't currently painting en plein air, it felt inevitable that someday I would. That day arrived sooner than expected. Within a few days and armed with the counterintuitive notion of just being mediocre, I ventured into the field, palette in hand and easel on my back. I found a suitable motif in a canyon within walking distance of my studio in Salt Lake City. As I set up my gear, I could feel the familiar anxiety rise. I told myself all I had to do was be mediocre–nothing more than performing at a routine level. I also told myself that I was excited, not nervous, to be in the field painting again.

The painting went well. There were moments when I felt the familiar specter of anxiety arise. I entered unknown territory and risked losing control of the painting. But I told myself that anxiety arose not from being in unknown territory but from the fear the unknown induced. I tamped down the fear with my clichéd affirmations and pressed forward. Eventually, I found the verbal part of my consciousness strangely silent as I effortlessly mixed and applied color. In that internal silence, I calmly pushed forward to a state of flow–a state I recognized accompanied my work in the studio. I had misunderstood why I painted in the field. I thought it was to record interesting and beautiful visual information for future paintings. Actually, it was to achieve the state of flow essential to producing unique expressions in paint.

I subsequently painted a half dozen large, saleable paintings within a few weeks. I wasn't faking it. Nor was I discouraged by any momentarily perceived failures. I had successfully smashed the mental block that kept me from successful plein air painting.

What is the formula for achieving plein air success? Certainly the fact I trained myself to see value was a contributing factor. Although I no longer use a value finder I used one for years in the studio and the field. Simplifying my process certainly helped. I recently started using palette knives exclusively, which in the field meant no more solvents. But above all taming the demons of fear and anxiety allowed me to move forward and harness all the techniques I use in the studio.

The irony is that my breakthrough came at the end of a three-year avoidance of plein air painting. From books I've read on achievement, this isn't the way it's supposed to work. But that is one of the hallmarks of the artist's journey–every journey is profoundly different.
(This article originally appeared in Plein Air Magazine online.)

Brad Teare –November 2017

Above: Summer Fields, 16" x 20" oil on canvas, available at Anthony's Fine Art

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

336: New video venue

–I AM just one exhibit away from being able to finish my new studio (my latest show will be this Friday, Nov 17, 2017 at Anthony's Fine Art, from 6-9). When the studio is finished I plan to start an online Udemy class featuring painting with thick, textured acrylics. I will demonstrate how to paint a landscape and an abstract using commercially available texturing mediums as well as chalk, marble dust, and a plethora of other strange and fun mediums.

Since Google banned my Youtube account, my enthusiasm for making Youtube videos has waned. You may have noticed that I haven't posted many videos lately. I'm not sure why Google banned my channel since it has over 1.5 million views, but it is certainly within their prerogative. I've since watched classes from Udemy and found them to be a great content provider. I look forward to working with them soon. I'm pleased to report that my technical test reel passed review (not easy to do) and my new Udemy videos will be considerably better than my Youtube videos.

Until my Udemy course is ready, I hope you will check out my painting classes on (click here). Curiosity has been very supportive, and it doesn't seem like they will ban my account anytime soon. Although some of the videos on Curiosity were available on Youtube that is no longer true (this is my most popular Curiosity class).

I hope you enjoy the Curiosity classes. I appreciate your support and will have some new videos soon with the more reliable, Udemy venue. Many thanks.

Brad Teare –November 2017

Above: Hidden Journey, 36" x 36", acrylic on canvas. available at Alpine Art.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

335: Varnishing a Painting

–RECENTLY I was preparing a set of paintings to send to my new gallery, the Leopold Gallery in Kansas City. To hit a tight exhibition deadline I needed to use a fast drying paint. I opted to use Gamblin's Fastmatte colors. I was very pleased with the results–all my paintings were dry in time to ship on schedule. However, as you might imagine from the name Fastmatte the colors dry with a noticeably more matte finish than their regular counterparts.

Fortunately, in addition to the Fastmatte paint I also ordered a set of Gamblin varnishes, which come in three variations: gloss, satin, and matte. Since I previously had a less than ideal experience with another brand of gloss varnish (which was excessively glossy) I opted to test the satin finish in the Gamblin brand. I was pleased that the formula went on smooth and flat with a minimum of bubbles. None of the bubbles persisted into the dried layer. See my video below to see how the satin varnish improved depth of color and value.

Additionally, there was little or no odor, which was a major plus. And my test painting was dry the next day and ready to ship which I found remarkable (note that I live in an extremely dry climate. Your experience might vary, so be sure to test drying time). Another Gamvar attribute is how it conforms to the topography of paint strokes without pooling.

I haven't tried removing the dried varnish, but the directions here say to use Gamsol and wipe off the dried Gamvar with a lint-free cloth. Another suggestion on the same page says it might be a good idea to oil out the canvas with a mixture of Gamsol and Galkyd medium before varnishing. I imagine this would give a more glossy surface but the excess gloss would be minimized with the next coat of satin Gamvar. This is the technique I will follow next time when I've planned better and have more time before shipping.

Varnishing has always been an extremely trying experience for me in the past, but it looks like Gamblin has taken away the frustration. Many thanks.

Brad Teare –October 2017


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