Artist Daily teaches the basics and techniques of drawing and painting. Techniques include oil painting, watercolor painting, and drawing basics. This is a place where artists come together to exchange advice, support one another, and share in the camaraderie of making art.
The right edges lend dimension to your painting
Where Lines and Strokes Matter
Maybe you’ll know the feeling I’m describing. The feeling when you are painting and you keep thinking, “What am I doing?” followed by the internal response to “keep going.” Again and again it happens until that moment when you see your lines and strokes and colors turn into something? Then it turns into magic. Edges are like that too.
I hardly pay attention to edges as I create them. I see the lines and strokes I put down, but not the edges they result in. Not until they become part of what I’m painting and then, edges become a big part of the magic.
Daniel Gerhartz is a prize-winning artist and workshop instructor, and he has brought us some great info on squinting, and today he’s coming to us with a lesson on the magic edges. Enjoy!
Mr. Johnson by Daniel Gerhartz
It Can Be About Edges
Often as I survey a model’s appearance, I look for the one key visual aspect that initially catches my eye and make it the focus of my study. This can be an elusive, fleeting quality of light that lasts only moments or a lyrical rhythm of line.
In essence, all these characteristics are variations of line, harmony, tone, color, or edge. In Mr. Johnson, my focus was a study in edges as I strove to convey the power of the form and drama of the subject.
Find the Relationship
The key to painting edges accurately is to truthfully observe how they look in proper relation to each other and then paint that relationship. Before I set my brush to the canvas, I find it very important to take an assessment of the subject in terms of the extremes in value, color, and edges, and organize my thinking around these from the outset.
In this case, as edges were my focus, I squinted down at Mr. Johnson, and made a mental note of the hardest visible edges. These are circled in red.
Squint to See Hard and Soft
Why do I squint? If I don’t, everything appears to have a sameness of edge. By gently closing my eyes about half way, the forms are simplified and the variety between hard and soft edges becomes more visibly evident.
You will notice in the circled areas that the edge quality is razor sharp in some spots. This is how they looked when I was squinting down! It is so important to paint these areas just as they appear: razor sharp!
See the difference between the sharp edge circled between his eyes and the edges of his brow line as the eye sockets rounded up into the forehead or the hard edge of the hat visor compared to the softer edges on the cast shadow on the forehead from the hat.
Neck Meet Chin
Another area of great edge contrast is on the area of the neck beneath the chin. Notice the extremely sharp edge between the neck and shirt compared to the softer edges of the cast shadow of the chin on the neck.
Also, an area that I often see painted too hard by students is the edge quality of the transition between the top plane and the bottom plane of the nose. Observe the very soft quality of this turning form.
Early in my development, I admired many of the “broad brush” painters whose works I studied. I was seduced by the bold sweeping strokes they made as they rendered a head or figure.
But those “beauty strokes,” as my friend Scott Christensen so aptly calls them, should not destroy the form or take away from the sensitivity with which you paint the subject. What I failed to notice was the painstaking attention to the accurate rendering of the form that was always beneath the bold surface quality of these artists.
Look for Sharpest
So the next time you have a subject before you, carefully assess the subject, squint down and let the sharpest edges emerge. When beginning a work, establish the sharpest edges as early as you can in the painting so that you can use them to compare against. This is critical!
As you progress, hold onto the sharpest edges as reference points and notice the how all of the other edge transitions relate to them in descending order. It is this great contrast that will give your work new dimension!
For more of an edge education, sign up for Paint Along: Landscape Painting, All About Edges. You’ll find out how to capture a vast and lovely landscape on a two-dimensional surface with the correct manipulation of edges — and in this online workshop, master professional landscape artist, Johannes Vloothuis, will give you the keys to achieve this, and will reveal many other valuable landscape painting tips along the way. Enjoy!
Portraiture is, in my humble opinion, the domain of artistic masters. All the greats, such as Velazquez, Rembrandt, Goya and Sargent, can be counted as incredibly skilled and innovative portrait artists in addition to being pretty brilliant at everything else they chose to paint.
The Milkmaid of Bordeaux by Francisco de Goya, 1825, oil painting
How Do They Do It?
Their portrait art was so great because they were great. They took their vision and unique perspectives and applied it to their compositions no matter what they were painting. For example, I have always been in love with the way Sargent would put together a composition. That goes especially for his portrait paintings.
His ability to capture a person’s personality in the way that they sprawl on a chaise or simply stand at the base of a staircase? How does he do it? And it’s the same with Velazquez’s paint treatment, or Goya’s subtle, muted tones.
Portrait Painting Expert Process from Daniel Greene
Contemporary artist and portraitist Daniel Greene has been teaching the same master practices of the artistic greats, and his insights can put your portrait painting practice a head above the rest, no pun intended.
Greene treats every step of a painting as a building block, coalescing the parts into a unified whole that is individualized and memorable. To give further insight into how he does what he does so well, he’s offered his step-by-step painting process to us.
Create several studies from life. When working on a large canvas, think about beginning with pastel studies before moving on to working with oil.
Initially, Greene uses fast-drying earth tones and lean mediums containing little to no slow-drying oils. With the successive layers, he increases the oil content in his medium. He starts with a diluted raw umber base coat, applying the paint slightly darker than the tone he wants as he wipes down the canvas surface and removes some of the pigment.
Danielle – Spring St. by Daniel Greene, oil painting 24 x 22.
On the semidry surface, Greene uses raw sienna mixed with black to rough in the composition, and then refines the painted sketch using burnt umber. He attests to “beginning with a broom and finishing with a needle,” indicating how he migrates from painting loosely and leaves details for last.
Work from dark to light, painting in layers. Throughout the process check yourself by evaluating the painting with mirrors and keep your initial studies on hand for reference. Once you move on to full color, your aim is to create visually interesting cool-warm relationships within your colors.
Oftentimes, Greene will oil out. Oil out is a process of laying down a layer of medium and allowing it to dry, so that the painting is ready for final detail work.
His career as a portrait paint is captured within this book. It is an all-encompassing resource for us to master learning how to paint people. Turn the page and watch this natural painter at work throughout the years. Enjoy!
An Invisible Framework to Guide You
Girl with Parrot by Pierre Bonnard
Storytelling often comes naturally to artists. Sometimes the story starts on a single canvas or sheet of paper and doesn’t end until there is a gallery full of paintings, a suite of drawings, a set of illustrations, a series of fantasy art comic strips, or an entire graphic novel.
Certain subject matters compel an artist to revisit them again and again, building on a concept or pushing it in different directions. The narrative can be a visible part of the artwork, in the form of a written story. But oftentimes it acts as an invisible framework that guides an artist through the creative process.
Reaching for the Story
“Narrative is like an infrastructure that you can come back to and get more and more out of it each time. Each work turns out rich by itself, but there’s also something to reach for,” says artist David Sandlin, who is also an adviser for second-year graduate students in the Illustration as Visual Essay program at the School of Visual Arts, in New York City.
Storytelling for Every Artist is Unique
Students in the program work toward discovering what is integral for all artists to discover—the kind of artists they want to be and what form their work will take, whether fantasy pictures of other worlds or realistic views of the places and people around them. Along their journey they also develop an understanding of the possible uses of narrative in their work.
When Words Are Too Much
“Telling a story visually seems poignant and resonates strongly with me,” says Laura Peyton, an artist, bookmaker, and illustrator. “There is something about communicating visually that is incredibly powerful, but sometimes the words seem overwhelming. I often start with images, building the story from the images I create. That way, the viewer can have their own personal interpretation.”
Nature Morte Aux by Pierre Bonnard
We All Build Narratives
Even if they are not aware of it, visual artists often develop some sort of narrative in their work. Storytelling takes many forms and at its root is about communicating and connecting with the viewer, which many artists aspire to do.
“Michelangelo is one of the greatest artists in history, and every work he produced was informed by a story. Working in an unclear manner with no effort to reach your audience can be problematic,” says J.P. Peer, an oil and acrylic painting artist and draftsman and the creator of many fantasy images that speak to the worlds available to an artist with an open mind.
“I used to think of each piece I did as a standalone work, but stepping up to a blank canvas can be intimidating. But if you have a story — or a world of stories — in mind, it’s like painting an entire world, one that’s created in your own style and by your own hand. It’s liberating, and if you do it correctly, people respond and they escape thoroughly into your work.”
The Letter by Pierre Bonnard
Your World of Stories
There seems to be an undeniable affinity between figurative and representational artwork and the presence of a narrative. What can differ is if it is one where fantasy images come to the forefront or it is steeped in representational realism. How do you find yourself using narrative and storytelling in your work? Is it in the forefront of your process or a more like a well of inspiration? Let us know by leaving a comment.
If you’d like to explore the process of painting and storytelling, consider Mastering Composition Digital Collection, a unique and highly useful group of resources on this powerful subject! You learn how to let your inspirations tell your stories — merging your inner world and the hand that holds the brush. Enjoy!
John Singer Sargent definitely “made it” with his portraiture and unique painting style. El Jaleo by John Singer Sargent.
The Ultimate Artistic Goals
Over the weekend, a friend of mine joked that his ultimate artistic goals are something like:
1) Making work that is awesome
2) Being famous or having people appreciate your work so you can make a living doing it
and 3) Doing what you want — meaning you are your own master and no one else is driving your creative bus or pigeonholing you.
And then we both laughed … a little hysterically … because that three-pronged goal is one that only a handful of artists are able to achieve. The rest of us, if we are lucky, will secure one or two of those aims, and it is compromise after compromise along the way.
What’s Making It?
One way that an artist has the best shot at “making it” is for him or her to be in control of their part in the art business. In this day and age that can mean learning how to sell art online so that you are networking with your collectors directly and establishing yourself almost like a standalone gallery of one.
Melissa Wolcott adapts her painting skills to a miniature scale, selling the works online.
Specialize and Astound
It might also mean specializing in a particular genre. Maybe you are going to focus on becoming theportrait painting artist for your region, and even within that you can specialize in corporate portraits or children’s portraits. Or you could apply your skills and sell your art by working in a noteworthy way–you could develop a clientele interested inlarge-scalee drawings or miniatures.
Your Path, Your Choice
The point is making the compromises about where to sell art or what kind of art you will be making for yourself — don’t let outside influences lead you along a path you didn’t choose but merely settled for. And that means staying informed about what exactly you can do with the art you hold so dear. Artist’s Market 2018: How and Where to Sell Your Art — a deluxe guide to exploring the aspects of art business and selling art — can help us all put the control of our art in our hands.
You’ll find practical tips and techniques on managing your art business, plus strategies for selling artwork and advice on marketing art. Artist’s Market 2018: How and Where to Sell Your Art made me realize that there are so many avenues to explore and that the more we do the better chance we have of reaching that pie in the sky dream of being awesome and famous while doing what you want. And it is a definitely a dream worth reaching for!
What’s your criteria for “making it?” And are you there yet? Leave a comment and let us know.