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.

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.

Norfolk Plein Air Paintings

Plein air landscape painting of boats at Burnham Overy Staithe, Norfolk, UK

Boats at Low Tide, Burnham Overy Staithe. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Here are the paintings from last week in Norfolk, England.

One of the best things about painting in the UK, I think, is that there is a large number of excellent plein air painters to work with. This trip was organized by David Bachmann, and we were joined by Roy Connelly, Tony Dakin, Jory GlazenerTim King, David Pilgrim, Mike Richardson and Karl Terry. (One evening the English artists were insisting that there aren’t really that many plein air painters in the UK, but then the two spots where we painted had large groups of plein air painters from the Norfolk Painting School, run by Martin Kinnear, and David and I saw another group earlier in the week at Pin Mill).

Plein air landscape painting of Burnham Market, Norfolk, UK.

Saturday in Burnham Market. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

While the weather in the UK was beautiful all week, we had a marine layer over northern Norfolk. I enjoyed the grey skies though, after a very hot August in Italy (well, the second half of August at any rate).

Driving inland a bit I was able to find some sun.

Oil painting of a bull in a field in Norfolk.

Bull in a Norfolk Field. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of sheep in a field in Norfolk, England.

Sheep in a Field, Cranworth. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Painting of the garden at Teal Cottage, Burnham Overy Staithe.

Teal Cottage Garden. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of the sky at Brancaster Staithe, Norfolk.

Norfolk Sky. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Norfolk is famous among artists for its skies. The flatness of the land combined with the unstable English weather makes for some great sky paintings. Or so I’ve been told. We only had one day when the clouds were distinct, most of the time it was hazy or a flat grey.

Plein air oil painting of the church at Burnham Market, Norfolk.

The Church at Burnham Market. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

I spent a lot of time painting the boats at low tide, I guess since I find it such an unusual subject.

Plein air painting of a sailboat at Burnham Overy Staithe, Norfolk.

Sailboat, Burnham Overy Staithe. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of a boat at low tide, Brancaster Staithe, Norfolk.

Boat at Low Tide, Brancaster Staithe. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of a cornfield in Norfolk.

Cornfield, Brancaster Staithe. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Norfolk has a lot to offer for subject matter. It’s also a really nice place to work as the people are friendly, it feels really empty (at least in September), and there are very few fences anywhere.

Plein air painting of morning light, Brancaster Staithe, Norfolk.

Norfolk Morning. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Pin Mill

Plein air painting of a boat on the mud in Pin Mill, Suffolk.

Boat at Low Tide, Pin Mill. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Pin Mill is a couple of small buildings on the south shore of the the tidal River Orwell, in southern Suffolk, England.

Plein air painting of a sailboat in the mud at Pin Mill, Suffolk.

Sailboat at Low Tide, Pin Mill. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

I recently spent three days painting there with three other plein air painters: David Bachmann, Roy Connelly, and Paul Rafferty.

The English painter Edward Seago did some of his best paintings there of the Thames barges. Since I spend a lot of time talking to other plein air painters, and Seago is seen as one of the best plein air painters of the 20th century, I assumed everyone in England had heard of Pin Mill, and that it was something of an English Giverny. So I was surprised when I called my studio painter friends in England to brag about going to paint at Pin Mill and no one had heard of the place. Then, at the B&B where I stayed up the road, they had never heard of Edward Seago.

Plein air painting of a barge in the fog at Pin Mill, Suffolk.

Grey Morning, Pin Mill. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.

The place should be more well-known. It is one of the more picturesque quarter miles anywhere in the world. The Thames sailing barges that Seago painted are still there, and often have their sails up still.

Unfortunately, when we were there the barges were all up at the nearby town of Woodbridge for a maritime weekend. We drove there to try to paint them on the last day, but they had just left to go back to Pin Mill.

Plein air painting of the pub at Pin Mill, Suffolk.

Late Morning, Pin Mill. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of Pin Mill at Sunset.

Pin Mill Sunset. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Cala di Forno

Plein air painting of the beach in the afternoon.

Afternoon on the Beach, Cala di Forno. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of morning clouds.

Morning Clouds. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Cala di Forno is a magical little spot on the southern Tuscan coast. It’s a tiny clump of buildings just next to the beach, in the middle of a large natural park. Much of the park is off limits, even to those staying in the houses, so there is a lot of wildlife around. Down near the houses there are tame deer that stand under the fig trees, waiting for the kids to pick the figs for them (though they don’t stand still enough to paint with any accuracy).

plein air painting of deer in the parco dell"uccellina, maremma, tuscany.

Deer and Olive Trees. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of a deer by the old well in Cala di Forno, Italy.

Deer by the Old Well. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

We spent last week there with a few other painters. After walking all over Rome in the heat, it was nice to be restricted to a tiny area in which to work. Many of my paintings were done within 10 meters (30 feet) of the front door.

plein air painting of the old well at cala di forno.

The Old Well, Cala di Forno. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of a stone pine tree in cala di forno, maremma.

Stone Pine. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of the houses in Cala di Forno, Italy.

Houses in Cala di Forno. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painters often look for people who are going to be in the same place for long enough to paint. Fishermen, for example, work great as subject matter as they move very little over the course of hours. I spent a few sessions painting the other artists while they worked. Other painters make great subjects since I have a good idea of how long they take to finish a piece, and thus for how long they’ll stay still.

plein air painting of a watercolorist on the beach.

Tina Painting a Watercolor. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of Ben Fenske painting Beatrice on the beach.

Ben Painting Beatrice. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

plein air painting of a painter with his family.

Ignacio Painting on the Beach. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of another painter painting.

Ben Painting. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

The beach can be accessed by boat, so many arrive and park their boats in the little bay. The water is so shallow, they often just walk from their boat to the shore (swimming the first bit, obviously).

plein air painting of boats in the surf at cala di forno, tuscany.

Boats in the Surf, Cala di Forno. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

I spent a lot of time trying to paint people on the beach.

Plein air painting of a mother and child on the beach.

Tamara and Moss. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of a woman backlit in the sea.

Backlit. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.

I even tried painting kids, though I have no idea how Sorolla did it, they moved much to fast for me.

Plein air painting of a kid on the beach, cala di forno.

Irene on the Beach. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of kids playing on a beach in Italy.

Kids Playing on Driftwood. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

In plein air painting, sometimes I find restricting myself to a small area in which to work can be better than moving around a great deal. The extra time not spent scouting and traveling means more time for the paintings.

Plein air painting of sunset at Cala di Forno, Italy.

Sunset, Cala di Forno. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Rome

A few paintings from a four day trip to Rome. I was looking for bigger views, where the foreground, middle-ground, and distance work together, so I walked a lot. The August heat and the mass tourism made work difficult.

Plein air painting of the gardens of the Villa Borghese in Rome.

The Gardens at Villa Borghese. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

For the first time in my life I also had the police tell me to put my painting equipment away in Piazza Navona. Another Italian cop later apologised to me and said there was a problem with that particular spot as there was some issue with the guys who sell paintings there. At any rate, plein air other painters should be aware of the situation. Despite 400 years of painters depicting Rome and its beauty, the police might hassle you if you’re painting in the more famous areas.

Plein air painting of the piazza dei Monti in Rome.

Piazza della Madonna dei Monti. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

I painted a couple days with Kelly Medford, Marco Carloni, and the local plein air painting group. It’s always much easier to find to good places to work by traveling around with the locals. Rome has just a ridiculous amount of subject matter, one would need 4 years there to do the place any justice. 4 days is way too little.

Plein air painting of a Roman ruin in Rome.

Roman Ruin #1. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of ruins in the Foro Romano.

Roman Ruin #2. 30 x 20 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air landscape painting of the entrance to the Colosseum in Rome.

Cypresses at the Colosseum Entrance. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of the Colosseum in Rome.

Colosseum in August. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.