Two English Studio Landscapes

Here, briefly, are a couple of larger studio pieces I recently finished from sketches done in September in Norfolk and Suffolk, England. They’re off to Constantine Lindsay Fine Art.

Landscape painting of Boats at Low Tide, Burnham Overy Staithe.

Boats at Low Tide, Burnham Overy Staithe. 80 x 100 cm, oil on linen.

Painting of Pin Mill at low tide.

Pin Mill, Low Tide. 70 x 100 cm, oil on linen.

I’m off to Austria to paint outside in the Alps tomorrow. It will be good to get out of the studio for a bit.

Social Media for Painters

Traditional media tends to ignore contemporary traditional painting. When I was first starting out as an artist I found this really frustrating. I was searching for art training which did, as it turns out, exist but it was there was no mention of it anywhere. Today the internet and social media have really changed things for the better. There are a lot of great traditional painters working and we now have a myriad of ways to see the work of these artists, as well as network, sell paintings, and discuss issues relevant to realism with painters from all around the world.

Screenshot of Pinterest.

Pinterest is my favorite online resource for art. Google Images and Bing are both stunningly awful for any generic art search, and even refined searches quickly descend into irrelevance. Looking for 19th-century Italian artists, for example, starts to turn up soccer players and starlets very quickly. When you first go to Pinterest, all the images are of clothes and furniture. The trick is to set up an account, unfollow all the boards they start you with, and begin looking for painters you like. From there you pick boards you like via the ‘this painting is also on this board’ link, and follow them down the rabbit hole of great artwork. The way I have it set up now gives me a large number of inspiring artwork to peruse, and it’s usually a wonderful mix of historical and contemporary artists. It’s also great for finding a very specific genre of work, as generally the people curating their boards do a good job with it. I don’t post work much myself, but my profile is here.

ArtStack is similar to Pinterest, but focused on art. I’m new to it, and the art is mostly Contemporary with a big C. The layout is very elegant and clearly made by people who understand looking at artwork (they even convert from centimeters to inches for you, and list both). Currently they are having a crowd-source art contest which I’ve entered, and if you have a free moment you can ‘stack’ my work here.

Wahoo Art, on the other hand, has to be one of the least elegant sites on the web. They make up for it with a ridiculous amount of work on display by historic artists. Here are the results for a search of Isaac Levitan’s paintings, for example. My wife actually just showed me that link yesterday and many of those works I had never seen before, despite having seen a large number of his monographs.

Other online catalogs for paintings that I sometimes use are the ARC Museum, Wikiart, and Olga’s Gallery.

Facebook is the social media platform where there seems to be the most activity for artists. I’m personally very thankful to the site for getting me in touch with old friends I wouldn’t have found again otherwise. For painters there are some good groups worth joining to see historic as well as contemporary realists, and participate in some interesting discussions. I find it is also an excellent way to get in touch with painters around the world before I travel there to paint. Having a local artist show you around is the best way to work. Unfortunately Facebook has a limit of 5000 ‘friends’, but you can follow me here. I only post painting-related things these days, and it’s always set to public.

All the cool painters use Instagram these days. I really dislike everything about it. I rarely use my cellphone, and if I’m looking at paintings I prefer a big, color-calibrated screen. It’s also really snooty about what phone you use and my old Nokia didn’t make their cut. After recently inheriting an Iphone I’ve started using Instagram more, though I find the quality of photo that can be taken with any phone to still be seriously lacking. Photographers sometimes use Dropbox to get their high-quality photos onto their phone and then upload to Instagram from there, so I’m trying that.  Another clever social media trick is to use IFTTT to automate your posting with ‘recipes': This one, for example, posts anything that goes on Instagram to Facebook, this one does the same to Tumblr, and this one posts it as a native Twitter image. So, after that rant, you can follow me on Instagram.

Twitter I find to be very useful for specific things. When I was setting up this blog I started following all the ‘how to start a blog’ twitterers and found tons of useful links and information. If I need to find art materials in a new city I can just tweet to the company that makes them and they’re usually good at responding. I know of other artists who use it to great effect for finding clients, commissions, etc. and it clearly can be a powerful tool for those that understand how to use it. On that note, here is my (rather uneventful) twitter.

The online world has also opened up access to new markets for painters. I personally still do most of my sales through brick and mortar galleries, but I’m a big fan of the Painting a Day movement. It was originally pioneered by artists such as Julian Merrow-Smith, and has now been taken up by lots of great still-life and plein air painters. The premise is simple: Have a blog, paint every day, and sell the works one by one as they’re finished. I think it’s great that so many artists around the world have used the internet to find a new way of making the daily act of painting interesting, and that so many clients are able acquire beautiful, original works of art at the same time.

There are some good forums for artists, though nothing really stands out since RationalPainting went full Munsell (edit: I was informed that Rational Painting is no longer Munsell-only, it was just for a brief period after they changed servers). Natural Pigments has a good materials forum, Wetcanvas is very active with every style and technique, and ConceptArt has a good fine art section, among its various offerings.

The only podcast I know of for painters is the Suggested Donation Podcast (I was interviewed for it in November).

The most comprehensive list of painting schools is the ARC Approved Atelier List.

And finally, the online media on art I subscribe to are Plein Air Magazine (it’s a real magazine, but I read it online), The Artist’s Road, Artists on Art, and Underpaintings. Stapleton Kearns, Painting Perceptions, Lines and Colors, The Hidden Place, and Fine Art Views are some of the free blogs I peruse when I’m not arguing on reddit.

Edit: As Maike mentioned in the comments, I use my Flickr account to host large images of all my paintings. I do this since Lightroom has an easy upload system for Flickr (for some reason, there isn’t a similarly functional way to upload into Adobe’s own image-sharing website Behance). I didn’t list it as social media simply as I don’t use it as such. The one thing I did do for a while, which I’ve discussed before, is to use geotagged photos from my phone to keep a database on Flickr of some of the places I’ve painted so others can use them. For more ideas of locations, Paintmap does the same thing but with artists from all over the world.

If anyone has any suggestions to add, please list the in the comments.

Bordeaux Plein Air Paintings

Here are a few of my plein air paintings from last week in Bordeaux, France.

Plein air painting of a park in Bordeaux, France.

Statues and Circus Trucks. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of Bordeaux.

Tram and Scaffold, Bordeaux. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

It’s a very beautiful city. My paintings don’t really do the place justice (and it wasn’t the best time of year for colors). They say it’s like a little Paris and it does have that feel to it, while still seeming small and manageable. It would probably be a great place to live as the climate is mild for Europe, and the food and wine are so amazing.

Plein air painting of a sailboat at Cap Ferret, France.

Sailboat, Cap Ferret. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of evening in Bordeaux, France.

Evening Strollers, Bordeaux. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

And below is a small sketch of Porta San Frediano in Florence from our trip back. I lived in San Frediano for ten years and always wanted to paint the neighborhood more.

Oil painting of the Porta San Frediano in Florence, Italy.

Porta San Frediano. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Apologies for not painting out the clip holes in the skies. It’s been a busy few weeks.

First Place in the Plein Air Salon

Plein air figurative painting from Gregurić Breg

Gregurić Breg. 100 x 80 cm (40 x 32 inches), oil on linen.

There has been a proliferation of online painting contests recently. In many I find the judging to be erratic and I don’t usually enter twice if I find I strongly disagree with their choices.

On the other hand, I don’t mind losing if I feel the winning works were excellent. The bimonthly contest offered by Plein Air Magazine is the one contest I both regularly enter and regularly lose. Even though I get beaten by other artists most of the time, I think the quality of the work selected for awards is almost always great. Their judging is done with an intelligence and taste that I almost always agree with, even when my submission is not selected.

So I’m happy to announce that, after entering numerous works over the past few years, my painting of Tina in a field in the little hamlet of Gregurić Breg took first place in the recent October/November Plein Air Salon.

The painting was done outside, on location, over the course of a couple of months this year. Below is a photograph of my set-up. It’s in a small village in the hills above Samobor, a small town just outside of Zagreb.

Plein air painting in the mountains above Samobor.

The location at Gregurić Breg.

The grass is of different heights in part because it grew the whole time. It was at the level of Tina’s waist when we started in April, and over her shoulders when we finished in late May. Our landlord was nice enough to leave that little patch of field for us uncut, so I could finish the work.

(Gregurić Breg is currently available for purchase via my London dealer, Constantine Lindsay.)

A second entry, my painting of a snow covered road near Les Plans, Switzerland also took first place in the plein air catagory:

Plein air painting of a road in the snow near Les Plans, Switzerland.

Road in the Snow, Les Plans. 30 x 40 cm, oil on panel.

Below is a photo of the location:

Plein air painting in the snow in Switzerland.

The location in Les Plans.

Update: There is a short piece on my win on the Plein Air website here.

Suggested Donation Podcast

suggested donation
While in New York last month I did an interview with Tony Curanaj and Ted Minoff at the Salmagundi Art Club for their podcast series Suggested Donation. You can hear the interview on their blog here, or via iTunes.

It was the first time I’ve given such a long interview and I didn’t really prepare much for it due to time constraints with work and family in NYC. Thus, I was something of a deer in headlights in front of the mic and didn’t really get to flesh out some of the points I was making. I thought I would elaborate on them a bit here.

First, on Hardy Hanson at UCSC. One of the things I forgot to mention is that he would say to us over and over again to never stop improving. His idea (mantra almost) was that as we lay in our deathbeds painting a still life from the bed, our very last brushstroke should be the best brushstroke we’ve ever made. It’s something that has stayed with me all these years. Hardy Hanson passed away in 2012 and I remember wondering then about his last brushstroke. He was a great teacher and I’m very thankful for everything he gave me.

I think I only cleaned the toilets once at Charles H. Cecil studios. I’m really the last person you want in charge of keeping anything clean.

In the discussion about pigments, the alchemical idea of using four colors in figure painting is based on creation myths from various cultures. These stories describe the creation of man as occurring when god gathers four dusts from the four corners of the earth and mixes them with some elixir to give life. The dusts are red, yellow, black and white. It’s discussed in the Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer (a Jewish exegesis of Genesis), and some Native American tribes had similar myths. It’s not that I think painters are gods when creating paintings, I just thought it was interesting that people around the world assumed god used the same four colors. The fact that the limited palette actually requires glazing with alizarin could be seen as a sign of humility. The medium would be the elixir.

The squat in Paris where I worked was called Pôle Pi. There is a film on Youtube which documents a bit of it. I’m visible in the area where I worked for a second around the 43rd minute. It was a beautiful space, the poor quality of the film doesn’t really do it justice.

Discussing the Russian painters we met in St. Petersburg, I mention Evgeny Grouzdev, you can see some of his portraits here. The Burmese artist, Maung Thiha, I wrote about back in 2009.

The museums with large Russian Socialist Realism collections in the US are the Springville Museum of Art in Utah and the Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis.

You can pick up Nick Beer’s sight-size book on Amazon.

I’ll do a blog post later on the great Italian 19th-century painters. In the meantime some names to look at are (in the order in which they appear in the bookshelf next to my computer): Francesco Lojacono, Ettore Tito, Luigi Nono, Giuseppe de Nittis, Antonio Mancini, Guglielmo Ciardi, Emma Ciardi, Domenico Morelli, and Telemaco Signorini.

Atelier Book and Plein Air Magazine

atelier
21st-Century-Atelier
Tony Winters has written a thorough book on artist’s studios called ATELIER: Building the Visual Arts Studios of the 21st Century. It’s interesting as it is written from the point of view of both an architect and painter. There is a small part on my ex-studio in Piazza Donatello in Florence (currently part of Charles H. Cecil Studios).
You can pick the book up on Amazon.
plein-air-magazine

Also, Plein Air Magazine has a short piece on my use of sight-size and scraping down in outdoor figure painting (Joe Paquet has the cover and a longer artist’s profile).

The Iphone as a Painting Tool

A short post on using an Iphone as a black mirror. Like most of my tips, this is not my idea and I understand this has been common practice for a while at the ateliers like the FAA which teach sight-size. I mentioned it to other painters who hadn’t thought of the idea and it was well-received, so I decided to post it here.

I made the following video a few years ago demonstrating the use of a mirror in sight-size portraiture:

And in the next video of Ben Fenske painting a landscape you can see how often an artist will reach for the mirror while working:

The fact is, the mirror is one of the most efficacious devices for checking shapes and proportions in painting. It can be used without sight-size, but having everything visually locked-in makes the mirror especially powerful as an artist’s tool. For commissioned portraiture, where speed and accuracy are so important, it is really essential.

In landscape painting, artists will often use welding glass (sometimes called a black mirror) as it also greatly reduces the values. This allows the painter to see a value range closer to what they can actually capture in paint, and simplifies the number of values they need to compare.

Enter the Iphone, the $700 black mirror.

The Iphone has a flat, black glass screen and works perfectly for measuring shapes, proportions and values while landscape painting. Most of us also carry our phones around with us all the time. I recently inherited an older Iphone to replace my Nokia. While I’ll miss the maps and the privacy of my previous phone, I hated the rounded screen as I couldn’t use it to check shapes. Since I often forget, lose or break my painting mirrors when I travel, it will be a nice upgrade (that and the fact that iOS supports Instagram so I can stop borrowing the wife’s phone to post).

Belgrade Sketches

Plein air painting of souvenir stands in Belgrade.

Souvenir Stands, Belgrade. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Here are a few plein air paintings from this weekend in Belgrade, Serbia. I wasn’t prepared for how cold it would be, and I spent a lot of time walking to try to get a feel for the town so I didn’t get a great deal of paintings down. Before leaving for Belgrade I was inspired by the wonderful urban watercolors of Dusan Djukaric, who is based there.

Plein air painting at sunset in Belgrade, Serbia.

Popcorn Stall at Sunset. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air landscape painting of Sveti Sava in Belgrade, Serbia.

Sveti Sava Sketch. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of Sunday in Zemun.

Boats along the Danube, Zemun. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

The last day I was there I was shown around by the very talented, fellow landscape painter, Veljko Djurdjevic, who took me over to Zemun, one of the more picturesque neighborhoods of Belgrade. These short days make plein air work hard though. It’s too dark to paint by 4PM most days.

Plein air painting of the Assembly Cupola in Belgrade, Serbia.

The Assembly Cupola from Pironirski Park. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

New York City

Plein air painting of Chambers Street in Tribeca, New York

Andrea and Luella on Chambers Street. 12 x 8 in. oil on linen.

Here are some paintings from the past week on the streets of in New York City. I was there for a portrait commission and other business stuff, so I didn’t get a lot of time for plein air work.

It was fun painting on the streets, the New Yorkers (and tourists) were very complimentary about the work.

Apologies for the potato-quality photos, I didn’t have my camera with me.

Plein air painting of the Freedom Tower from West Broadway.

The Freedom Tower from West Broadway. 12 x 8 in., oil on panel.

Plein air painting of soccer players in Central Park, NYC

Soccer Players in Central Park. 8 x 12 in., oil on panel.

Plein air painting of a print seller near City Hall, NYC

Print Seller. 8 x 10 in., oil on linen.

I don’t normally sell prints of my work, but the above piece will be available for purchase as a print from Larry, the guy in the painting. He’s by the exit to the City Hall subway exit, near the Brooklyn Bridge.

Plein air painting of Times Square, NYC

Times Square. 8 x 12 in., oil on panel.

Plein air painting of the Manhattan Bridge.

Manhattan Bridge. 14 x 11 in., oil on panel.

Update: One more of the pile driver in Dumbo that woke me up every morning.

Plein air painting of a construction site in Dumbo, Brooklyn.

Pile Driver, Dumbo. 14 x 11 in., oil on panel.

A Dennis Miller Bunker Quote

Oil painting by Dennis Miller Bunker.

Dennis Miller Bunker. Meadow Lands (1890).

Dennis Miller Bunker is considered to be one of the greatest American painters. He died tragically young, at age 29, in 1890. He studied with Jean Léon Gérôme at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, was one of the first ‘American Impressionists’, and he painted with John Singer Sargent.

Portrait painting by Dennis Miller Bunker.

Dennis Miller Bunker. Jessica (1890).

One of his best students was William Paxton, who taught R. H. Ives Gammell (who taught my teacher, Charles Cecil). Gammell wrote a biography on Bunker, published in 1953, and in the book there are a number of personal letters given to him by Bunker’s widow. I reread the biography earlier this year, and the following letter from Bunker to his then-fiancée struck me as being particularly insightful into the working life of the artist:

You must try to realize how dull and monotonous an artist’s life is. There is absolutely nothing but work, work, work. And there is nothing in the work of an artist that shows his personality. You are marrying a man whose highest ambition is to conceal his identity, to remain above his work and apart from it, not to appear in it in any way – to be as cold and calm as a machine. Oh! if I only could, I might some day learn to paint! What I am trying to tell you is not to nourish any any ideas of an artist people whom you see may expound to you. Don’t think, as they do, that the charm of an artist’s work must be found also in his own personality. It is always apart, or should be, should have nothing to do with it, and that is what makes it such an infernal trade. Never to play on ones’s own twopenny flute but to keep the big end in view always; to remain patient and cold and quiet and work like a dog from morning ’til night; there is no other way of arriving even at talent, unless one is cut out of larger stuff than I am.

Oil painting of a tree by Dennis Miller Bunker.

Dennis Miller Bunker. Tree (1884).

That’s it really. That’s all I wanted to say. Since you took the time to get here though, I’ll leave you with this passage from the book as well. In it Gammell beautifully express the idea of breadth and detail in painting:

People untrained in the art of painting often believe that finish is attained by simply adding detail to detail and consequently they dismiss it as a mere by product of industry and patience. Unfortunately this view does not correspond with the truth. For an essential characteristic of all fine painting is unity of effect and this unity is destroyed by any detail stated in a false relation to the other component parts of the picture. This is particularly true of the type of painting we are here discussing, the purpose of which is to recreate on canvas the impression made on the painters’s eye by the landscape before him. To achieve this end, each detail must be set down with just the degree of definition and coloration which it holds for the eye when the focus of vision is adjusted so as to include the entire scene depicted. Piecemeal notation of individual detail immediately destroys the requisite unity of impression and turns the canvas into a compilation of separately observed visual facts. This invariably results in a hard, dry look, destroying all breadth of effect and offensive to those who are quite unaware of its technical cause. It is, in fact, one of the most serious defects which a painting can have and perhaps the most difficult defect for an earnest painter to avoid. The ability to carry a picture to a high degree of finish without losing its unity of impression is the mark of a master and requires artistry of the highest order. It is the central problem of the type of painting which takes for its main theme the interpretation of the beauty of the visible world.

Oil painting by Dennis Miller Bunker of a beached boat.

Dennis Miller Bunker. Beached (1882).

For those of you noticing the wide range of style in the posted images of Bunker’s landscapes, Darren Rousar has an interesting post on Bunker’s move from the more Academic influence of Gerome, to the Impressionism of his later style.