Wednesday, October 7, 2015

253: Using Sun Oil to Oil Up a Canvas

A VERY useful medium I use lately is sun oil mixed with about 1/3 Gamblin Alkyd Gel (or G-gel). In the video below I give a very brief demo of how to mix and apply the resultant mixture.

Sun oil is easy to make and requires no specialized equipment. Start by buying a quart of linseed or walnut oil

Walnut oil takes longer to make but will be clearer, having less amber tone. Walnut oil will also dry slower. Pour the oil into a glass casserole pan. I use a pan that measures about 12" x 18" and is about two inches high. Add oil until it stands about 1/2" to 3/4" in the pan. Place the pan in direct sunlight.

Then place a piece of glass over the top. The glass must completely cover the top of the pan. To insure I have a gap, so air can circulate, I take four US dime coins and stick a small bit of kneaded eraser on each side. I then place the coins, kneaded eraser side down, in each corner of the pan. Then I set the glass pane over the pan. The coins will keep the right gap and the kneaded eraser bits will insure that the coins don't accidentally drop into the linseed oil.

Place the pan with the glass on top in a place where it will get sunlight all day. The sun will heat up the oil and will develop a film on top. Be sure to stir the oil once or twice a day so the film doesn't actually dry. As you mix the thick oil on top into the thinner, lower layers the overall mixture will get thicker with each passing day.

In about ten to fourteen days you will have a mixture that is quite thick. Add more days to thicken to your personal preference. I like to get the oil a bit thicker than I need so that when I add the G-gel, which will be slightly thinner, it will be about the thickness of tubed paint. I add the G-gel to prevent the melting that is so common with Linseed and walnut oil. Pure oil will seem like it is staying put on your canvas but in a few hours pure oil will allow the next layer of paint to slide downward.

I paint this basically clear mixture onto my canvas when I need to add thick layers of new paint over a dried layer. This technique will allow for wet-into-wet painting even though the bottom layer of paint is dry.

Brad Teare –October 2015

Friday, October 2, 2015

252: Landscape Painting, 4 of 4

IN this final installment I demonstrate how I make final adjustments to a painting.  In this phase my primary objective it to remove any dots, dashes, lines, or tangents that create compositional elements contrary to my original objective. To accomplish this I need to slow down and carefully analyze the painting.

In order to see the painting with fresh eyes I step away from the canvas to get a distant, less detailed view. I might also take a photo. Viewing it on my phone allows me to see it in a new light. I might also dim the lights to get an altered take of the value shifts in the painting. Of course I use my reduction lens as well as a prism to invert the image (you can also use a mirror).

Lastly I might turn the painting upside down and peer at it for a while. If I still feel I'm not seeing the painting with a fresh perspective I turn the painting to the wall and let it sit for a few days. If I feel the need to keep the paint wet I will place it in my freezer (that is dedicated to preserving paint–don't keep paint in a freezer you are also using for food). The freezer will slow the drying time of the thick paint making it possible to paint into wet paint several days later.

This video is the shortest of the four because most of the work is simply a series of decisions with lots of time for reflection.

Brad Teare –September 2015

Monday, September 14, 2015

251: Painting with Lines

Warmth of Summer, 16" x 20", oil on canvas
I HAVE often stated that painting with thick paint is like walking a tightrope–there seems to be so much that can go wrong it can feel like you are completely out of control. If you study the paintings of Van Gogh, as well as artists who evolved from his discoveries like Tom Thompson and the Group of Seven, you often observe the use of cloisonnism (the use of line to contain patches of color). So why does cloisonnism emerge whenever painters use thick paint?

I've talked with artists who love thick applications of color but in order to get the control they need revert to thinner applications. I think the reason Van Gogh used cloisonnism was to retain a sense of control while walking the tightrope of thick paint application. You can observe from his work that the emergence of the surrounding line is intermittent–the line is not uniformly thick nor visible around every form. This thick and thin, vanishing line is what gives Van Gogh's work form while still retaining a considerable degree of sophistication of texture. Van Gogh borrowed this look from the art of woodcut. Although I've been a printmaker for decades until now I haven't explored this promising technique.

In the accompanying painting I added cloisonnism by using a red acrylic marker to draw my motif on gessoed canvas. I then added a thin layer of Gamblin Galkyd tinted with Quinacridone Red. I added local color using brushes and palette knives leaving a ragged line of underpainting around each form. I modified the line by pushing the adjacent color around with a fan brush.

Of extreme interest was achieving a degree of success even though I was in a low energy cycle while painting. This safety net–a process that allows for a more relaxed approach–is very welcome. I can see evolving this technique until the line, though present, becomes less obtrusive. This is what I believe the Group of Seven did as the use of line at certain stages of their development is less evident in their work.

Brad Teare –September 2015

Sunday, September 13, 2015

250: Landscape Painting Tutorial

HERE are the next to last installments of the four part landscape tutorial. In the last two chapters I fine tune the composition by adjusting values by adding some dark notes and some light passages as well as softening various edges.

This is the most complete explanation of my techniques. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments section below. Many thanks.

[NOTE: The final video will post as soon as it uploads to Youtube. It is taking longer than usual and I'm not sure why. Hopefully it will be worth the wait.]

Brad Teare –September 2015

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

249: Energy = Creativity

Your art reflects the energy level 
you had when you painted it.
"Everything requires Time. Time is the only permanent and absolute ruler in the universe. But she is a scrupulously fair ruler. She treats every living person exactly alike . . . ."Michel de Montaigne

TIME is often cited as universally constant, often as a goad to the slothful masses toiling away pointlessly earning their daily bread. My perception is that time is anything but constant. Rather time expands or contracts according to our energy.

Optimal creativity can only exist during times of optimal energy levels. When we increase our energy we increase our capacity for creativity. So while everyone has the same amount of hours in the day not everyone has the same energy and therefore we have different levels of creativity. When we increase our energy we increase our creativity and our capacity to live a full life.

Our art needs to have a high level of energy–if not the viewer will not feel the life and energy you intended and will not be emotionally moved. Norman Rockwell made the analogy between a painting and bouncing a ball off a wall. A ball never bounces off a wall with more energy than it had when it hit the wall. As a painter the energy of your pitch must exceed the energy you want your viewer to feel.

Systems drive behavior, therefore we need to devise a system that promotes an energetic life. When we have low energy we ignore life giving habits. We become resentful, bitter, angry, fearful–emotions resulting from fatigue.

When we find a way to revive our energy we are kind, courageous, joyful, and invigorated. This state easily affects our paintings and viewers detect the energy just as such personal traits energize those around us. Everything either energizes us or drains us–our energy level is the most important factor to our success.

Every artist should understand this fact–time management is energy management. But knowing this equation is not enough–we need to understand it with such passion it changes us. Probably most of us won't change until the pain of not changing surpasses the pain of changing. But eventually we need to become highly conscious of this important equation–more energy=more life.

So what will boost our energy?  I need to eat right and exercise regularly. Everyone is different but I can't surround myself with dark colors and energy depleting images. I need powerful, life affirming imagery. I think it wise to practice a spiritual discipline that focuses on gratitude, peace, and kindness. I also need to keep my studio neat and orderly. Pointless chaos drains me. Who would want a studio in a parking garage? Your studio should exude positive energy so you will reabsorb that energy. Studios, like great works of art, are like batteries–they energize those around them. Collectors realize this and buy the best art and let the life and energy stored in the paintings infuse their daily lives.

In like fashion some people and activities drain your energy. Avoid them. Seek people and places that replenish you. Avoid watching TV excessively. Watching TV is not restorative. No one watches TV for an hour and then jumps up feeling totally refreshed. Just like much of our food is not real food, much of our entertainment is not real entertainment–because it exhausts energy rather than restoring it. Seek out social and recreational activities that actually enhance and expand your life. Do not be satisfied with a junk food version of life.

Being an artist is not easy. It might be one of the hardest ways to make a living. More than anyone else we need to be intentional about creating an energetic life.

Brad Teare –September 2015

Friday, September 4, 2015

248: New video series, parts 1 and 2

"Reflections", 20 x 20, oil on canvas.
I made a new series of videos–one of the first where I show the entire painting process from start to finish. Especially interesting to many will be using a hand held palette. For the first time viewers will be able to see my colors as I hold the palette to the camera as I mix paint. It's a little awkward but I think you will get the idea. I also draw my sketch on camera directly onto the canvas. Nearly every stroke will be seen in this multi-part series.

These two videos are longer than most–nearly 40 minutes total. Please post your questions below. Let me know what you think of the videos.

Brad Teare – September 2015

Monday, August 24, 2015

247: Instagram vs. Facebook vs. Twitter

Along the East Bench, 16" x 20", oil on canvas
DURING the opening of my abstract show the gallery director for the event suggested I post images of the show on Instagram. Since I didn't have an account she showed me how to set one up, taking a photo for my profile, and giving me a quick tutorial about hash tags. Before I knew it I had a respectable looking feed and several followers.

Since then the same gallery, Alpine Art, decided to mount a one-person show of my woodcuts in April 2016. The intermittent abstract posts evolved into daily posts about the art of woodcut. I have also posted images of my print studio and equipment and have purposely kept the captions informative but short. So far I have 43 woodcut related posts with 233 images to go (I use the app T-Zero to calculate the days until the show).

I've been pleased with the success of Instagram. In a matter of months I have 129 followers. By contrast I've been blogging via Blogger for six years and, even though I have over a half million visits, I only have 178 followers. Instagram is primarily a visual medium and is perfect for visual artists. It's easy to see who is worth following with no obstacles to hitting the follow button.

I do have some complaints–the resolution size on phones is quite small. I wished you could click on the images to get close ups (which you can do on the Saatchi app). I also wish I could track my own likes, like Pinterest, to keep a log of favorite images. They have a like button for connecting with other users but a love button for compiling an archive of your favorite images would be a plus. Although the feed with Instagram is uncluttered I wish you could post with italics, bold, and other graphic flourishes to make the text even more visually engaging. But even as it is Instagram makes Twitter and Facebook look as inviting as a tax form.

Contacting people is not as easy as it should be, either. I listed this blog in my profile and got a message saying it was an illegal URL meaning you can't have the word blogspot in the address–a futile attempt to make Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) a proverbial walled garden. I got around the lame prohibition by using a Tiny URL address.

One thing I like is posting simultaneously to Facebook with a large image. But simultaneous posts to Twitter are text only which is pretty pointless with a visual medium like Instagram. People can still follow me via Facebook or Twitter, I just post automatically to them via my Instagram account which keeps my life simpler.

I use the app InsTrack to get analytics although it's pretty clunky and is always needing a buck or two to expand its usability which is hugely irritating. If you know of a better Instagram analytics app please comment below.

In short, Instagram is currently my social media of choice. If you want to follow along click the link to the right of this post. I hope you'll give it a try. I look forward to your comments either on this blog or via Instagram.

UPDATE: As of August 2015 you can simultaneously post to Twitter with a high resolution image.

Brad Teare– August 2015

Monday, August 17, 2015

246: Best Studio Lighting

Northern wall of studio model
I HAVE  struggled with lighting in a variety of locations over the years including a basement studio. I'm currently building a new studio and I really want to get the lighting right. I need both good daytime lighting as well as optimal night lighting (I can be a night owl sometimes). For an overview on how to achieve optimal studio lighting click here.

After struggling to imagine where to place the windows in the future studio I was inspired by the book Imaginative Realism by James Gurney to build a model replicating widow placement. Using my iPhone I filmed the model at various times of day to see how light would illuminate and reflect throughout the space. This level of previsualization is critical to get a real world idea of how light reacts with the environment. If you need tips and inspiration on how to use modeling for previsualization I highly recommend Gurney's book.

The model helped me avoid several errors–not enough skylights and not enough light toward evening–which I remedied by adding two extra skylights and a tall window on the north end of the western wall. The model also confirmed that the eastern windows, placed at about ten feet off the ground, would allow the exact amount of light needed during morning painting sessions.

The video below shows how I observed and improved the lighting possibilities at different times of day.

Brad Teare –August 2015

Monday, August 3, 2015

245: Using photoshop to adjust an abstract

ACRYLICS allow me to paint over an abstract as many times as I need to–the surface texture only gets richer. One of the tools I use to help me move forward with a thickly textured canvas is Photoshop (you can also use Corel Painter,  Clip Studio Paint, or Procreate if you have an iPad or PC tablet). In the video I use my old ModBook but you can use any tablet that works with your computer.

In the video below I imported the image to the right and began painting over the digital file in Photoshop (the original lacks subtlety of saturation and value). If you aren't familiar with Photoshop or you need more info on how to make textured brushes I highly recommend the tutorials at the Society of Visual Storytelling.  One of the best tutorials on how to make your own brushes is Chaos to Control by Lee White. Don't let it bother you if your style isn't similar to White's. He focuses on making your own highly textured brushes and I found it very applicable to my textured abstracts.

I don't always use photoshop for corrections but it can be a handy way to pre-visualize what you are trying to accomplish.

Brad Teare –August 2015

Saturday, August 1, 2015

244: Poetry and Power

AS ARTISTS why do we express ourselves the way we do?

When I was younger I played in a rock band. One evening we were playing to a full house at the aptly named Rogues Inn in Manhattan, Kansas. It was the usual crowd and they were hard to please. We picked a song from one of our own compositions–one that had the vaulting power of the progressive rock of that era. We dove into the tune and found our way through the oft practised song.

But that night something was different. A musical fusion took place that transcended our abilities. When we finished we were met not with the usual smattering of applause but with dead silence. Every head was turned and staring at the stage. After a few heartbeats wild cheers and thunderous applause erupted.

Unlike my bandmates, being a musician was a pastime for me. I really wanted to be an artist. As we basked in the adulation that night I thought that's the kind of power I want to infuse into my art one day.

My career since then has tried to embrace that kind of vaulting power–but in visual form. Our art can be many things but it is good to know our prime motivations. One reason I like the art of woodcut is that it easily captures the raw power of the artist's mark. I now see that many missteps in finding a clear artistic path have been from combining two paradoxically exclusive elements–poetry and power.

Artists such as John Twachtman fused their art with a poetic response to nature by using subtle nuances of value and color. Others, such as Lawren Harris, pursued the power of the visual image using divergent contrast and the clash of saturated color. Poetry and power are two ends of a continuum. You can have a mixture of both but you cannot have a mixture of one hundred percent of each quality. You have to compromise. You have to understand the emotional response you are trying to evoke and add the right amounts of each quality to express your intention.

An element of great art is harmony of intent. Not knowing where the emotional intent of your painting is on the poetry/power continuum gives a mixed, and therefore, weak message. Even though viewers may not consciously detect conflict they will react with ambivalence and vacillate between the two emotional poles.

Brad Teare –August 2015

Note: The Lawren Harris book below is pending but I'm enthused to get a copy as I think he's the best of the Group of Seven. Let me know if you have seen a copy.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

243: The Role of Symbolism

Sketch for Reflected World, Graphite
FINDING your way as an artist is not easy. As I look back over my career I wonder at all the techniques and styles I've explored. I always admired artists who seemed to know exactly who they were and how to express that identity.

In retrospect I see I had a propensity for symbolic representation yet rejected it in favor of a more realistic approach. Fortunately, one of the great things about an art career is that it's never too late to recover lost ground. All the styles and techniques we explore can be plowed under to make rich soil for future work. The ruins of past projects become the stable foundation for future creations.

An overview of my career shows a willingness to divide the world into individual, symbolic chunks, while simultaneously resisting such division. The cloisonnism of Van Gogh seemed too prosaic in a world infused with poetic subtlety. Or was infusing symbolism via delineation a necessary aspect of his artistic project? Previously I thought delineation was simply a technique to differentiate areas of color with similar values.

The work of Rockwell Kent and the Group of Seven had the same tendency toward symbolism, often using linear calligraphy–and their paintings projected a similar power as the work of Van Gogh. My woodcuts had a type of symbolism lurking beneath the surface although rarely expressing themselves using the overt outlines of Van Gogh's woodcut-inspired cloisonnism. I now see his delineation as a way to infuse symbolic content into form.

So I find myself at a crossroads reconsidering the form of my work–perhaps seeking a synthesis of woodcut and painting–to create a more personal and complete visual world. I feel a new phase of artistic experimentation coming on–allowing prosaic symbolism to step forward, swapping poetry for power–a phase that for the first time I will not resist.

Brad Teare– July 2015



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