Tuesday, March 21, 2017

319: New Painting Workshop, May 2017

–I AM enthused to announce a new oil painting workshop Thursday, May 25, 4-8 pm, at Weber State University (click here to register). This four-hour session will be for serious beginners and advanced students.

We will be covering value, color temperature, and edges, and many other concepts I have addressed in this blog. All materials will be provided to allow each student to paint a complete canvas during the class. The class will be held at 3964 West Campus Drive, Kimball Visual Arts Center, Room 307, Ogden, Utah.

This workshop will be the last class I will be giving for the foreseeable future, so if you have wanted to learn more about my methods, I hope you will join me May 25, 2017. 

Brad Teare –March 2017

Grand Canal (above), 20" x 20", oil on canvas, available at Anthony's Fine Art

Thursday, March 16, 2017

318: Advanced Field Effects

–I HAVE often said in my posts and Youtube videos that the color it looks like is the color it is. Except when it isn’t.

Like I mentioned while writing about color temperature, sometimes it's complicated. The original context of my use of the above phrase was determining the color of pigments in tubes. If you squeeze out a blue and it looks warm, for your purposes, it is warm.

But what would you do if you wanted to paint the green square? Most people will see the large square as turquoise with the smaller square having a slightly pink tint. However, as you may have guessed, the small square is actually a shade of gray. This phenomenon is often called a field effect (read more about it here). If you painted the small square by mixing pink, you would have difficulty replicating what you visually experience. Not until you realized you needed to replicate the field effect, by using a shade of gray, could you portray the color accurately.

One problem painters often have, including me, is using too bright of green for foliage. This is especially true in Spring when painting outside. I see brilliant green and squeeze out some Thalo Green and add Lemon Yellow. It practically glows. I tell myself that is the intense color I'm seeing. It makes a brilliant green, and my brain tells me that's what I need. But again, its more complicated than that.

I once went to an exhibit of dozens of Maxfield Parrish paintings and saw his originals for the first time. His work is extremely realistic while pushing the boundaries of color brightness (or chroma) to the maximum. It's an interesting combination since I usually associated highly realistic paintings with a grayer palette. On closer inspection, I noted that Parrish used a myriad of complimentary speckles to introduce field effects, almost as if he were introducing an impressionist effect on a microscopic level.

This technique allowed Parrish to achieve maximum chroma within a realist form. I have since detected a similar technique with other painters who get the same effect by different means. One painter allows color to build up in the ferrule of his brushes and squeegees out these shards of random color as he adds strokes of paint.

Adding random specks of color is one solution to the excessive green problem. But a better solution is to add just the right complement. I contend that if a painter is using color well, they are using some form of field effect, even if like Parrish, it's on a nearly imperceptible level.

Brad Teare –March 2017




Wednesday, March 15, 2017

317: Getting Temperature Right

–THE temperature of a painting is always relative. If a painting is mostly made up of blues nearly any color you add will appear warm–although varieties of blue can be either warm or cool. It gets rather confusing.

I found it easy to have a superficial understanding of temperature but achieving a deeper understanding was more difficult. An intellectual understanding of color temperature and a working knowledge of temperature are two different things.

A good way to think of temperature is to regard it as a spectrum, but not as the usual color spectrum artist's use on the color wheel. It is better to think of color temperature as a Kelvin temperature spectrum with orange/red on one end and cool blue on the other. This spectrum is similar to the colors metals transition through when heated. In the illustration below, you can see the difference between the iridescent spectrum (like we see in a rainbow) and the Kelvin spectrum.

For artistic purposes, it is best to use the idea of the Kevin spectrum as a metaphor and not be too literal. With the Kelvin spectrum as the colors transition from warm to cool, the values shift toward white in the middle which will not translate well into painting. It is better to think of white as neutral temperature and the lack of pigment. Think of the rainbow spectrum as the local color and think of the Kelvin spectrum as what you add to those colors to warm or cool those colors.

Some artists think of the light of the day as progressing through iridescent colors–cool light in the morning and at noon, with the colors gradually turning warmer nearing sundown. But thinking of the daily color shift as a Kelvin spectrum shift is more useful. The light of morning being cool, the glare of mid-day light being white, or neutral, and the light of evening being warm.

Take a look at my Instagram feed and compare the color balances between cool and warm in the various paintings. Look at your own painting as a group to see how you use temperature. Are your paintings generally balanced between cool and warm? Or is there a pleasing asymmetry of temperature?

In the above photo of a recent painting, there is a lot of cool color. Initially, I had even more cool colors and had to gradually add more warm variations of blue and green to get the painting to work. I typically find that a painting that is too cool looks worse than a painting that is too warm. But it's also inadvisable to have a color scheme that is perfectly balanced between cool and warm. Mixtures that are 75% warm to 25% cool, or vice versa will be more traditional, and off-balanced mixtures (90% warm and 10% cool) will be percieved as more abstract or atypical.

Of all the aspects of color; hue, value, saturation and temperature, the hardest to come to grips with has been temperature. But keep looking and experimenting, and you will understand this essential but often elusive concept.

Brad Teare –March 2017

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

316: James Gurney's Living Sketchbook

–IMAGINE being invited to your favorite artist's studio and getting a chance to thumb through his or her sketchbook. That's how I felt when I previewed James Gurney's new sketchbook app Boyhood Home.

I'm super busy right now–I'm preparing for a major landscape show–and I initially thought I would quickly thumb through the images, perhaps delve into a few I found intriguing and get back to work. However, after experiencing a couple pages of Boyhood Home, I was hooked and retired to my overstuffed chair to linger over each page. 

Surprisingly, the digital sketchbook experience actually was as intriguing as thumbing through a favorite artist's sketchbook. It's a different experience, of course, but has unique advantages.

The book is divided into three modes: the sketches, which you can zoom into, a video with voice over, and often an additional video feature, like a digital sidebar. The videos are about one to two minutes long and for my taste about right, allowing Gurney to share tips while not slowing down the experience. As you can see in the screen grab above you tap the icons in the upper right depending on which feature you want. Tap the image and the interface fades away. The "i" button gives you information regarding the medium and subject matter–which in one case informed me about a sketching devise known as a white gel pen–which I immediately noted for addition to my plein air kit.

The sketchbook is 25 pages long and includes a page showing Gurney's tools and media (primarily gouache and casein). Be sure to use the pinch and zoom feature on all the images as it allows you to see incredibly close detail. The zoom feature alone makes this well worth the $5 price, but the fusion of video, voice over, and images makes this as close to actually being in a cafe with Gurney, discussing how he created each sketch. The first volume of the Living Sketchbook app will be available March 20 for $4.99 for both iOS and Android phones and tablets (go here for updates).

For the tips and inspiration alone I eagerly look forward to more sketchbooks.

Brad Teare –March 2017


Friday, March 10, 2017

315: The Art of Textured Paint


–I'M enthused about an upcoming landscape show at my new gallery, Anthony's Fine Art, on March 17. As suggested by the photo below, the venue offers a unique gallery experience. Unlike the austere settings of many galleries, Anthony's is replete with a wide variety of sculpture, paintings, and antiques. The ambiance is a delightful cross between a European museum and a Renaissance artist's studio (click here for a map).

Anthony's staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and I always love discussing art with them. My paintings will be in the upper salon as you go up the steps on the right. The video below gives you a preview of the show, although six pieces were still waiting to be framed at the time of filming. If you attend on opening night, you will see all 16 artworks.

In the video, I've included some close-ups to give an idea of the texture and color of a few of the paintings. But to be fully appreciated it's best to see the originals. The opening is Friday, March 17, 2017, from 6 to 9 pm. Parking is to the immediate north of the building, but there is always ample parking on the street in the evenings.

If you are in Salt Lake City on March 17, I hope you will drop by for a visit. I would love to meet you and glad to tell you more about my painting project and my process with these particular paintings. Until then.

Brad Teare –March 2017





Saturday, March 4, 2017

314: Building a Portfolio Website

–THE internet offers an unprecedented means to connect with fellow artists and potential art collectors. But the connection is only useful if we communicate effectively. In anticipation of a trip to Santa Fe to select a gallery, my brother Steve offered to give my website a major makeover.

I wanted the site to be the equivalent of a physical portfolio and needed high-resolution images in the portfolio section. Potential gallery directors will need to quickly see the quality and detail of my work. Steve found an innovative solution that allowed for speedy downloads while maintaining high visual quality (read about it here).

Since Steve was rightly concerned about download speed and wanted to keep the focus on my oil landscapes, he opted to eliminate portfolio woodcut images and link directly to my Etsy woodcut site. It was an elegant solution and a win-win for both navigation and download time. I haven't been overly impressed with Etsy as a sales tool, but it is a functional portfolio when linked to a visually engaging website.

Steve also suggested I upgrade my biography. Writing your own bio is tricky. You need to mention salient details without appearing excessively proud of accomplishments. Striking the right tone can be quite difficult even for the best writers.You can read the revised version here (let me know what you think). 

My galleries have changed so we included my newest–Anthony's Fine Art. I also added a photo of their gallery (see above) which I borrowed from Google Earth. I will upgrade the photo as soon as Spring arrives. I also want to make a video showing the interior galleries as well as the space where my paintings are hanging. It's an impressive venue, and I think readers might enjoy a virtual tour.

Brad Teare –February 2017

Saturday, February 25, 2017

313: Sleeping Well = More Energy

–SLEEPING well is a struggle for me. I often face the easel wishing I could have slept better, more prepared to paint well. Too often exhaustion casts a shadow of confusion over my mind obscuring the clear thinking necessary to creativity.

Shawn Stevenson, the author of Sleep Smarter, writes that sleep is the secret sauce that makes exercise, meditation, and eating programs work. In the absence of quality sleep, all other efforts to improve energy levels will not succeed.

Stevenson's premise is that we are creatures who have adapted to the cycles of this planet with incredible precision. Our goal now is to shrug off the habits made available by the modern world. We need to consciously sync our lives to the rhythms of the planet. He suggests we sleep when it's dark and be active when it's light. We should have a regular bedtime around 10:00 and sleep 8 to 9 hours a night. I found his arguments compelling despite being a night owl with ample excuses why I need to work late. Stevenson claims that one-third of the populace find rising early difficult but contends we will be happier and healthier if we adhere to the natural day/night cycle.

In a previous post, I characterized the hormone cortisol as a bad hormone. But if our bodies create it, it is by definition good, in the right doses and at the right time. The right time for our brains' cortisol bath is in the morning. This can be enhanced by exercise, which for me includes a mile walk and light weight lifting for 15 minutes. Cortisol must be produced early in the morning to stimulate the proper hormone cascade throughout the day. Exercising excessively later in the day will cause you to sleep poorly.

Another essential hormone for good sleep is melatonin. You get it by exposure to sunlight–not lights, lamps, or glowing computer screens. About a half-hour a day is adequate. And it doesn't matter if it's cloudy or not. If it is light from the sun, your body will produce the right amount of melatonin that will later provide you with the right hormone balance for sleep. Don't try to cheat mother nature by using melatonin supplements. They will work at first but will eventually supplant your regular production, and your body will stop producing its own supply.

Negative hormone stimulants include viewing a blue screen device (including television) within two hours of your 10:00 bedtime. This type of light stimulation will trigger a hormone bath counter to achieving a restful state. A better alternative is to use warm light in your bedroom and read or listen to books on tape before sleep. Listening to books on tape allows for sketching or other simple tasks in harmony with winding down in preparation for sleep.

Other tips include limiting or avoiding caffeine, drinking lots of water early in the day (to avoid nighttime bathroom visits), and practicing meditation both before bed and if you wake during the night.

I see several personal obstacles to Stevenson's recommendations, primarily setting a fixed and early bedtime. But his arguments made sense, and I plan to implement them as best I can. His main premise is that we are subject to the wisdom of Mother Nature–and we disregard her to our peril.

As always let me know what you think.

Brad Teare –February 2017

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

312: The Power of Meditation

–TO be successful artists need to learn how to generate and maintain energy. The best ways are to eat well, sleep well, exercise, and meditate.

For me the key to achieving the other three objectives is meditation. I've read a cross-section of the myriad books on the subject. Most seem to delight in making meditation excessively complicated. But meditation is a simple and easy way to conserve energy and should be a staple in every artist's energy conservation strategy. Science has proven that meditation boosts the good chemicals in your brain and inhibits bad chemicals (like cortisol and norepinephrine which are linked to fatigue and depression as well as a host of chronic diseases). Meditation is used by many people for a wide variety of solutions including organizations such as the U.S. Navy SEALs (who use a variation of 4 x 4 x 4 technique).

Meditation is comprised of two parts–correct breathing and calming the mind. Many make the case that correct breathing is all that is necessary and that you can meditate while you paint or engage in any other activity. The Kindle book Cubicle Mediation outlines breathing technique and three methods of calming the mind:

Guided Meditation, the first method described, is where you breathe calmly while engaging in an internal dialog. This most closely resembles self-hypnosis and can be used for a variety of rehearsal techniques such as imagining painting an intricate passage of a composition before you actually mix paint.

The second is Clearing the Mind Meditation, where you swat away thoughts like errant insects. The third method is Focusing the Mind Mediation where you allow any and all thoughts to come into your mind, but you keep moving from one idea to another, not allowing yourself to obsess on any one thought, like a bee going from flower to flower.

As the title suggests, Cubicle Meditation was written with office workers in mind, but the broader lesson is that meditation can be practiced anywhere by anyone. When you practice meditation, you will find yourself renewed and refreshed, like taking a power nap. I use meditation to rehearse a painting, to relax before sleep, or any other moment when stress becomes an obstacle.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Brad Teare –February 2017

Monday, February 13, 2017

311: Paradoxical Surrender

–ONE of the worst creative blocks I ever had was when I contracted to complete a 112-page graphic novel. I had already completed the first 32 pages, and the publisher loved the arc of the story. I reassured him I could easily produce eighty more pages. Euphoric, I returned to my studio and began trying to write the remaining chapters. Despite my enthusiasm, I found I couldn’t rise to the challenge.

My inability to move forward was agonizing. I tried and failed with many attempts to come up with a reasonable solution. I wrote out drafts. I did sketches. I dove into the final rendering of pages. I discussed possible plots with my wife. Nothing worked–everything I tried was less than what I expected.

Finally, in total desperation I scribbled some sketches on tissues and began, panel by panel, to render the story, making up each frame and dialog balloon as I went. My goal became, not to create an amazing comic as originally intended, but to simply deliver 112 pages to the publisher. I gave up on creating a quality product. With great disappointment I told myself I would have to satisfy myself with just delivering the pages I promised.

But a strange thing happened. The less I tried, the better the pages looked. Most amazingly, a story began to appear. Soon I found myself imagining a complex and satisfying tale. It was a strange story to be sure (the San Jose Metro later described one chapter as Griffin and Sabine on acid). But ultimately the book had an internal logic I found deeply satisfying.

The phenomenon of chucking expectations and proceeding with a project regardless of imposed standards became a frequent solution over the years. I came to regard it as Paradoxical Surrender–the less I tried, the more I succeeded.

There are many expectations we deal with. Some are self-generated. Some are projected onto us by others. Shirking expectations and plowing ahead with total disregard for quality is admittedly an odd solution. And it won't work unless you have one essential ingredient working for you–the actual ability to create such a project.

Do the following assessment the next time you have a creative block; how would you rate your ability to complete the project? Have you ever completed such a project in the past even if to a lesser degree? If you have the ability to repeat that success, can you muster the confidence to give it another try? These two factors, your level of ability and confidence, will give you an idea why you are choking with this particular project. If you've had a reasonable amount of success in the past, and in your best moments have summoned the confidence necessary to complete such tasks, you can assume that you can replicate that experience.

Your next challenge is to get out of your way. Turn the project over to your subconscious mind. Press forward with as much haste as you can muster. Shirk off all expectations! Commit yourself to doing a mediocre job. In fact, challenge yourself to do the job with as much mediocrity as possible. If you are so obsessive/compulsive you don't know how to be mediocre use the steps James Altucher, in his book Choose Yourself, calls The 7 Steps of Highly Mediocre People. If you surrender to mediocrity, you will find you suddenly have the chops and your work will improve as if by magic.

I know this process seems counterintuitive. But I've tested it many times. I forget to use paradoxical surrender at my peril. Although I occasionally forget to use it, it is one of my most cherished super powers. Give it a try.

Brad Teare –February 2017


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

310: How to Scrape a Canvas

–ONE obstacle to painting thickly is the limit of one alla prima painting session. Once the highly textured paint has dried, it is no longer as easy to add more paint. The solution is to scrape off the texture. This isn’t as damaging to the overall look as you might imagine–the illusion of texture often persists as do most of the scintillating shards of random color mixed into the strokes. I have salvaged many paintings that otherwise would have ended up in the reject pile. It doesn’t always work, but often much of the composition, values, and hues only need minor adjustments to arrive at a masterful painting. Because of this ability to fine tune, it’s a technique well worth exploring. At the very least you will be able to explore why the painting failed and how to correct it next time. Many of these experiments become roughs for future paintings.

Below I list the tools I use in the accompanying video. In addition to using the 3M wet-and-dry sanding blocks as sharpening tools, I also use them to sand the final surface of my scraped canvas (just be sure that any exposed paint is completely dry). I always have a set of these blocks in the studio.

3M Sanding blocks: extra-finefine, medium, course, for sharpening tools and sanding canvas.
Hole Cutters: for scraping off paint from tools and plucking off knobs of dried paint.
Ceramic loop tools: when sharpened the large loop tool is my main scraping tool.
Stropping compound: for getting a fine edge on the knives and ceramic tools.
Canvas knives: for general, all-purpose scraping. Knife shaped and lozenge shaped.

I hope this technique works well for you. Let me know if you have found other tools that work well.

Brad Teare –January 2017


Monday, January 16, 2017

309: Add More Joy

–WHEN we are unhappy, we fixate on what is wrong. It becomes difficult to focus on the positive. Our current unhappy state casts a shadow over our present reality, and our prime goal becomes to escape current problems. But assigning unhappiness to current conditions is an illusion and worsens unhappiness. In the book Fail Fast, Fail Often, by Ryan Babineaux and John Krumboltz, the authors describe how adapting to our current mental state, and moving forward despite being less than happy, is a superior strategy. Waiting for an ideal moment postpones happiness and is described as the "not yet" view of life.

Such a view allows people to procrastinate their success–the economy isn't doing well, they need to take more workshops, they don't have proper leave-behind materials, they haven't gotten into the right galleries, and so on–the list becomes interminable.

Babineaux and Krumboltz say it's better to simply push forward, with a Panglossian attitude if possible. It is better to side-step solving personal problems and take steps forward. No matter how trapped you feel in your life there are steps you can take that will allow you to move forward. The only limit is your creativity. Move forward at all costs, and keep moving.

I like Babineaux and Krumboltz's practical approach to maintaining momentum, and it syncs with my experience of learning to paint. It is better to move forward, to keep painting, despite setbacks. There is a growing body of work that proves that when we are in a happy state, we can process complex information more effectively. When you are painting, you are judging value, mixing color, deciding on textural applications, adjusting edges, and modifying composition. You can juggle such complexity best when adopting a generous frame of mind rather than obsessing about the difficulties of the process.

Work done for the joy of it increases creativity. Work done for money, prestige, of other external rewards, inhibits creativity. As the authors write, "when you are feeling good, it encourages you to think more flexibly and engage in playful, exploratory actions."

Think of the places and activities that give you joy. The photo above shows one of my favorite locations, where I'm writing this now. It's the sunroom adjacent to my new studio. In addition to being wonderfully comfortable, on a sunny day, I can sit and soak up the rays. The room's design, comfort, and beauty give me joy. My studio, usually another place that gives me joy, is currently quite a mess after a long stretch preparing for two shows. I've decided to bite the bullet and spend the time getting it back to its joy-inducing state.

Painting isn't an easy profession, but if you want to paint better consider adding more joy to your life.

Brad Teare –January 2017

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