I'm in the middle of a wave-painting frenzy. Finished two wave paintings in the last month and I'm working on a third. Really enjoying myself. To me, a successful wave painting is about energy and freedom. Working on one always raises my mood. It's pure painting fun with all it's different surfaces: smooth, soft green patches where the wave is rolling over and explosions of white foam when it breaks. All these surfaces need a different approach: I glaze the smooth parts and for the foam I use pure paint, no medium at all.
Highlight of the fun is painting the foam dots that are thrown in every direction. I use a worn out fan brush to splatter the thin paint on the panel. Back in Kindergarden we did it with a tooth brush, but a fan brush gives you some control over the splatters.
Caspar David Friedrich Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, 1818
I'm a Romantic. Not that I treat my wife to a candle lit dinner every week (she'd probably think I went mad), but I can relate to the ideas about nature of the Romantic era. It lasted from (give or take) 1800 to 1850. A true Romantic sees nature as a source of very intense and sometimes even religious experiences. The genre to best express that feeling is of course landscape. One of the most important Romantic landscape artists is the German Caspar David Friedrich. In some of his paintings he places a lonely pedestrian facing the overpowering presence of nature. In his 'Wanderer' this figure is still quite dominant, but in other paintings (of different of artists as well) it shrinks to a tiny dot in the vast landscape.
My hometown museum hosts an exhibition entitled 'Romanticism in the North'. In this case 'the North' means the north of Europe. Went to see it last week and came home with mixed feelings. On the one hand I saw some totally over the top paintings (some of them even poorly painted), on the other hand I was stunned by a few large size renderings of nature & drama, like the one I'm looking at in the picture. It's a shipwreck drama bij Wijnand Nuijen, a Dutch painter who was 23 when he painted it. He hardly outlived his masterpiece. Died at 26...
In the catalogue of the exhibition the figure-in-a-landscape theme is seen as symbolic for the deep longing to become one with nature and at the same time for the impossibility of fulfillment. Even though I'm a Romantic this yearning is strange to me. It's like wanting to be something you already are. We don't have to become one with nature, we are nature.
I just finished a painting that I think is definitely Romantic. It's called 'Before the Storm'. Not a human being in sight... It will be the subject of my next tutorial. We're in the process of editing the vast amount of footage and that'll take a while. Hope to release it this coming May. I'll keep you posted.
Those of you who have seen my full length tutorials know that I often start with a midtone when I'm painting clouds. It can either become the shadow part or the bottom layer for the highlights. Then I slowly build up the highlights until I get them just right. With 'Tidal Pool' I took a different approach.
Tidal Pool, oil on panel, 35.4 x 47.2"
I started by painting the blue of the sky covering the entire surface. Waited a day til it was dry. Painted the midtone, a soft purple-like grey. Waited another day. So far so good.
Normally I would've painted a rather thin layer of Titanium White and a hint of Vermillion Red on top of this layer and repeated that in the next few days, up to the right shade of white.
This time I thought I'd try something else. The color mix was the same: Titanium White and a hint of Vermillion Red. The difference: no medium, just pure paint. With a number 30 spalter I bristled the dry paint on top of the bottom layer.The combination of the rough brush and the dry paint worked very well to create a cloud like surface.
I shot the below picture close to the painted surface. Especially on the edges of the highlights it clearly shows the hair-like structure that you get when using this dry brush technique. I left a small zone of the underpainting purple uncovered, to prevent the hard edges that will immediately turn your cloud into an isolated lump. Now it nicely dissolves into the blue sky.
As some of you may know I paint on 6 mil. MDF board. I order them at Mus-paneel, a small Dutch company, specialized in preparing painting boards. They do an exellent job. Got some secret recipe to make the surface as smooth as ice. After doing their magic they ship the boards to my framer to have them cradled.
The cradle is glued to the back of the board
Cradling is essential, especially for the larger boards. It provides stability and prevents curvature. But there is another reason. I use floaters as a standard frame and the cradle makes it possible for the painting to be screwed to the frame. (By the way, I love that word, floater. It describes exactly what happens: like your painting is floating in its frame. The Dutch term is less poetic: 'baklijst'. 'Bak' means bin, 'lijst' means frame. As if you dump your painting in a bin...)
The width of the border from the cradle to the edge depends on the specifics of the floater you use. The one I've been using the last couple of years allows a 30 mil. width between the cradle and the edge of the board. If you glue the cradle to far from the edge, it will have no frame to sit on. I probably lost you by now, didn't I? Maybe the above cross section will shed some light.
The Sea, oil on panel, 47.2 x 63"
Anyway, I thought I'd end this rather dull story with a painting. In a frame.
A White Christmas is very rare in Holland. I don't even remember the last time, but the web doesn't forget, so I looked it up: the last time we had one was in 2010 and the one before that was way back in the twentieth century. We do have snow though, at least a few times every winter. Very inspiring for a landscape painter.
There's a common misunderstanding about snow. I hate to break the news to you, but it's not white. It has a lot of different colors, ranging from yellowish to light shades of purple, depending on the circumstances, but not white.
Snowy Polder, oil on panel, 7.1 x 11.8"
For example: in a snow landscape it gets very clear that shadows have a distinct color. Not just some darker muddy shade, but an actual color. In the above landscape the shadows have a soft purple haze, that contrasts with the warmer sunlit parts. Painting a snow landscape is an excellent opportunity to practice your colored greys. If you want to find out more about mixing colored greys, you could watch the YouTube clip I did on the subject.
Snow landscapes often hinge on the contrast between warm and cold colors. A few warm accents in a predominantly cold painting often make a big difference. In the Snowy Dune painting the bottom part of the sky and the dune grass (detail below) do the trick. If you want to be sure of the warm-cold contrast you could try painting your snow landscape on a mars red ground. You'll be surprised!
It's been quite a while since I last posted a clip on YouTube, it was January I believe. It's not that I don't enjoy making them, but painting comes first and I've been pretty busy this past year. Anyway, I did another one and you can watch it on YouTube. It's 'A Quick Guide to making Oil Sketches on Paper' of just over 6 minutes. Hope you enjoy it!
I've had better weeks. Felt a little weak on Monday, had a sore throat on Tuesday and was sneezing my head off on Wednesday. Couldn't paint all week. On top of that I managed to loose half of the footage for a video I was editing. Like I said I've had better weeks.
It once again made me realize how important painting is to me. So let's talk about a painting I did recently.
Foam on the Beach, oils on panel, 27.6 x 47.2"
Sometimes, when painting a film of water on a beach, I first do the beach, all the way up to the surf. In the early stages there's sand as far as the first breakers. The basic color here is a flesh tint with a little Sepia and Burnt Sienna. Closer to the viewer there's evermore Sepia and Sienna.
On top of the beach I then paint this layer of water with it's reflections in thin glazes. I really love how the beach subtly shines through in the color of the water. That's the beauty of glazing: it mimicks reality. First sand, then water. I've used this principle more often, for example when painting thin clouds over a blue sky. Though there have to be more examples I can't think of them at the moment. Gotta sneeze...
I always try to make my paintings as realistic as possible, even thought the scenes I paint are often imagined. When you're aiming for a high degree of realism a few things are essential. Smooth transitions for example. Equally important is the way you handle your edges. (By the way: the painting below is not the same as the one in my previous entry. It's a much larger variation on the same theme.)
Rain Clouds #2, oil on panel, 40 x 160 cm
Anyway, a cloud almost never has sharp edges. I already mentioned it in both my tutorial videos: a cloud with sharp edges is going to look like it's cut out and glued to the sky, instead of being a part of it. The way to paint a cloud that hovers over the earth's surface is by softening its edges. The lightest part is not on the edge.The cloud kind of slides into the background.
Rain Clouds #2, detail
Duhuh, mr. expert painter. Of course clouds have soft edges. They're fluffy, constantly changing phenomena. It's not hard to understand they have soft edges. But how about solid objects, like the pole in the painting below?
Every now and then I get the chance to show my work in Belgium, one of our neighbor countries. Great people. They like (and sometimes buy) my work and that makes me very happy. But lately I'm getting the impression they got a thing with frames. More and more Belgian buyers like to purchase their paintings unframed. Gallery owners can't stress enough they have no objections if you drop off your work unframed.
I'm not sure what the reason is, but I hope it doesn't spread. The purpose of a frame is not only aesthetic, it's for protection as well. The surface of my paintings consists of very thin layers of paint that easily damage, a bit like enamel, so I want them to be properly framed.
And to be honest, I like my paintings better when they're framed. Frames are a visual buffer between the painting and it's surroundings. The picture below shows the standard frame I use for my work, a so called 'floater'. It's a simple frame that underscores the landscape format of the painting and says: "This might be a realistic painting, but it's still a work of a contemporary artist."
And here's the same painting in it's actual frame. The Edgartown Art Gallery (where it's currently on display) asked me to ship it unframed, so they could choose a frame that matches the atmosphere of the gallery as a whole. An old English kinda feel. I went for the experiment, curious as I was how my work would look in a totally different frame and I was pleasantly surprised. It looks great with the wonderful warm-cold color contrast between the frame and the painting.
If you want to take a closer look at it, please go to my website www.paintingskies.com. It's the first painting that comes up in the Portfolio section (at least for now). When you hit the 'detail' button below the picture, guess what happens...
This week I started working on a one person exhibition early next year in De twee Pauwen Art Gallery. De Twee Pauwen means 'the two peacocks' and the gallery honors it's name. Exactly 10 years ago they hosted a solo show of my work for the first time. It was quite successful and after that I was invited back every two years.
Most of the exhibitions I'm participating in are group shows. Since the economic crises galleries are reluctant to take the risk of a one person exhibition, so I'm really glad with the Two Peacocks. It illustrates the importance of a gallery that believes in your work. Nothing worse than driving home after an exhibition with the same paintings you dropped off a few weeks earlier...
Foggy Sunrise, oil on panel, 15 x 50 cm
So to prevent that I'll give you my 5 tips for a successful exhibition (apart of course from doing brilliant paintings):
1. Make sure you're in the right gallery. Duhuh, I hear you think. But it's is not as self evident as it seems. If you don't get a lot of opportunities to show your work, you maybe tempted to be content with the mere fact that a gallery invites you at all. Still it makes sense to do some research to find out if your work fits in. Look at their artists and maybe write one of them an email to find out what the gallery is about.
2. A prompt answer says a lot. When I receive an email from a gallery I try to respond the same day, or the next day at the latest. I like my galleries to do the same. When it takes them a week (or sometimes more!) to answer they should at least apologize for their late response. Otherwise: forget it. It takes a lot of effort, time and money on your part to participate. The way a gallery communicates with it's artists says a lot about the effort they're going to put in. Some of the worst experiences I had could have been avoided if I just paid attention to their reaction time.
3. Do the paperwork. When you're working with a gallery for the first time it's a good idea to have the gallery conditions on paper. At least have them confirm by email the most important points: their percentage, the exhibition period, the number and sizes of the works, insurance, that kind of stuff.
4. Do the numbers. When you've done your homework you know which price range the gallery is in. For a successful exhibition it's important to stay within that range. If you have to change your prices to fit in, remember: once you raised them it's a problem to lower them when times get hard. Galleries hate it when that happens. It sends a message to their buyers their artists are overpriced.
5. Enjoy the ride. With all these do's and don't's you'd almost forget the reason for all this: painting. For an exhibition like this I like to focus on a certain aspect of my work. Last time I did a lot of reflections, this time it's going to be clouds, my core business. I enjoy visualizing the gallery filled with my works, each one of them absolutely brilliant of course. Can't wait to turn my ideas into actual paintings. I'll keep you posted.
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