Friday, February 25, 2011


The Painting Lesson
Jack Beal
collection: The Hunter Museum of Art, Chattanooga
The prior post was on Twinkies. Today I wanted to write about Fudge. By now you know I am not talking about sweets, am I? I have been sending my current painting students an art quote every week (when I think about it). I have many written and filed and a few books on them too. I love reading bios of artists and trying to picture myself interviewing them. What would I ask? What would they respond? I do think I know of one thing that most would admit:


I know that as a young artist and later as an instructor with students, that most if not all people believe that an artist just goes up to a blank canvas and voila! paints a masterpiece. It just flows out of their head. Well, that can happen sometimes I suppose. But I believe every artist has a purpose in their painting whether it is to paint some one's portrait, a place they like, objects they chose, or an expression or feeling they are having. If not, why paint? The real difference in being a "painter" verses an "artist" comes with the interpretation. Just copying exactly what's there will make you a painter. Making changes that create a better painting, makes you an artist. I have been fortunate enough to study under some great artists. Jack Beal says, "Lie, cheat, steal." What is he talking about? He means that painting from life, either a landscape or a group of figures will not be perfect in every way. Nature cannot compose your painting. There may be a clump of even number trees, a telephone pole in the middle of a scene, etc. So your job as an artist is to make use of what's there in creating a work of art.

"The artist does not draw what he sees, but what he must make others see." -E. Degas

So it is not enough to "see- put" as Jack Beal used to comment about some artists who copy nature or photographs. This is where the Fudging comes in. You move a tree, you add a path, you darken, you lighten, you change the colors. You create where you want the viewers to look first, where their eyes should travel and where they should stop.

"Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth." -Picasso

I don't know about you, but I try not to lie about things. I will, however, fudge the truth sometimes in painting. I think it would make Jack Beal proud.
Comments? Questions? Would love to hear from you about how artists create our own "truths".

Sunday, February 13, 2011


French Cottage
oil on canvas
20 x 24
Twinkies? Yes, but not the creme filled cakes you are thinking about. Hmmm, that is a nice thought! I call my paintings that I "revisit" Twinkies. They were close to being finished. I hung them some place where I could sneak up on them and keep looking. This painting of the French Cottage went pretty quickly. I knew what I was going to paint. I had painted a small version on site so I was familiar with the house. But, working in the studio on a larger canvas, the temptation is to copy the photograph pretty closely. Tempting...Tempting.., just like the creme filled cakes.
And so it was hung and it waited.
When I first began painting en plein air or outdoors, I thought that every outdoor painting needed to look JUST like the scene and had to be completed on site. 100%. Wow, what pressure! Then I started reading and looking and listening to other plein air artists. "Your job is to create a beautiful painting. Not copy just what's there." "Nature isn't perfect. You are the creator. Move it, change it, and make it your own. " "Get inspired by nature. Paint what you feel." Finally, I got it! Compose, rearrange, change, but come away with the essence of what attracted you in the first place. You might have to lighten something, smudge something, even eliminate something when you get back into the studio.
Working in the studio, you have the luxury of time. No disappearing light, no dancing shadows, or weather conditions to make you paint like a madman. But, the photograph should only be an inspiration too. If the painting needs something, add it. If it needs something removed, do it!
My cottage scene needed something. I finally realized what it was. Why did I like it in the first place? I liked the flowers and vines growing around it. All I had to do was add more. Twinked!
In the oil classes last week I talked about using a mirror to view your work. It helps to see lines and angles that are not correct, shapes that repeat too often, and other compositional faux pas. But sometimes, all it takes is a little time away. Let the painting tell you what it wants. Put away the photo or the on site sketch. Make a painting that satisfies you and hopefully the viewers.
I am thinking spring, aren't you? And maybe one of those sweet creamy little cakes?
Happy Valentine's to you and those you love.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Sunday Sale

Midtown Gallery
1912 Broadway
Nashville, TN

Wildflowers I
oil on board
6 x 6

Looking outdoors at my back yard right now looks nothing like the images I am creating inside. Still trying to keep my spirits up during the winter doldrums, I am painting a series of wildflowers on hillsides and also marshes with "happy clouds". The small square format is perfect for these scenes. The hillsides are based on my Tuscany travels where I have painted. The marshes are images from different locales around Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. One thing I tell my students is to choose your subject in a landscape. Is it the ground or is it the sky? Don't divide your composition by painting the horizon line right in the middle and developing details in both areas. This is a fun (two) series for me and I love the wide floater frames I am using on them. The new paintings are available at Midtown Gallery in Nashville where I am now represented. Midtown Gallery is located on Broadway near Vanderbilt University. I used to be in Local Color Gallery in the same location a few years ago and am very excited to be back showing in the Nashville area. I hope you will drop by Midtown and see my paintings. For Super Bowl Sunday, Gary Tisdale the owner does something pretty unique: he has a Super Art Sale from 1:00 - 4:00 pm. It's a great time to get new works for your collection at great prices. Tell Gary you know me!

Also, I am now a part of Daily Painters of Georgia and you can follow our blog: I am hoping it will motivate me to shoot, edit, and post my paintings more often. I wish I could say that I don't mind that part of the art trade, but I dread it. So I usually wait until I have several new paintings to shoot before I set things up. This will be an experiment to see if I can do this!

Have a Super Sunday no matter whose team wins today!