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.
Francis Di Fronzo painted the grassy fields in his landscape paintings with a nontraditional “comb” made with sixty or so individual hairs.
Want Texture? Seek Unconventional Tools
Breaking out of a painting rut sometimes requires a little more oomph than just adding another color to your palette or going from a still life to a figure painting. Sometimes your whole process needs an overhaul.
A few years ago, artist Francis Di Fronzo took a fairly drastic measure to take his work to a new level. He set aside the traditional painting brush for a texture tool of his own invention — a “comb” with individual hairs seated along a length of wood.
Artistic Dead End
In 1998, Di Fronzo was facing what he describes as an artistic dead end. He’d been working on non-traditional trompe l’oeil paintings of unusual objects like mechanical tools that were no longer satisfying to him. He wanted to create large-scale landscape paintings with the same attention to detail as his earlier trompe l’oeil paintings.
“I figured the only way to do that was to paint every single blade of grass,” he says. He started by using a brush with only one bristle, but found that this process was too time consuming, so he created a brush with fifty or sixty individual hairs on it, lined up in a row. This “comb” allowed Di Fronzo to paint texture convincingly and capture the illusion of fields of grass as he built up the surface.
Di Fronzo’s “comb” is a texture innovation he made himself.
The invention and learning how to paint with it gave Di Fronzo a major boost of confidence. “I’ve always felt a need to do things differently. I’ve never really felt comfortable using the tools that exist and simply accepting that traditional brushes are the best tools for the job,” he says. “So when I came up with the idea for the comb and it worked, I felt much more confident in approaching art with an open mind-both in subject and technique.”
The comb allowed Di Fronzo to paint individual blades of grass precisely and quickly. The comb was only used for the grassy expanses in his work. All the other parts of the paintings are made with traditional brushes.
And although Di Fronzo has transitioned out of landscape painting to other subject matters, leaving the comb behind, he marks it as a creative peak for him, mostly because of the high value he puts on process. “Making any artwork is not just a matter of creating an interesting and powerful image. There’s always the question of how the painting will be made,” he says.
The comb Di Fronzo create, top, allowed him to create the illusion of individual blades of grass without having to paint individual blades.
Need a Boost?
I couldn’t agree more. Art can stand on its own. That doesn’t take away the importance and interest we have in the details of the creative process. Di Fronzo created a new technique for himself. It opened doors for him at a time when his creative sensibility needed a boost.
My studio bookshelves — lined with artist monographs, technique manuals, and more–give me that same kind of boost. Talking to artists, boost. Watching painters paint, boost. And just playing and having fun with my materials–big boost. All of these give us food for thought when it comes to the “how” of making art.
A Sweet Note to End On
From grisaille and tonal painting art processes to prismatic palettes and palette knife painting, the techniques we explore really can keep our creative juices flowing. That includes the topic of the day, which is all about texture.
To end on a sweet note, I want to offer you the opportunity to explore all the ways of texture in painting with oils, pastels, and watercolors. Join Johannes Vloothuis for his next Paint Along: Enhance Your Paintings with Texture and you’ll get just that! I hope it reveals the “next step” you have been waiting for. Enjoy!
Dame Ethel Smyth by John Singer Sargent
Create a Face Drawing That Speaks Volumes
Features and body position can be used and contorted to tell us all kinds of things in a face drawing. But you don’t always have to think up dramatic scenarios when drawing a person or a character.
You can be subtle, too. Like using the mere tilt of the head to say something about the figure you are drawing.
It sounds simple, but there are a few easy drawing tips to think about when making a face drawing or contour drawing of figure with a tilted head.
First, remember to tilt your measurement guidelines running along the cant of the head. For example, if you want to locate the position of the mouth in relation to the iris of the eye, draw a guideline that slants with the tilt of the head. That way your proportions stay correct.
Nijinksy by John Singer Sargent
Measuring the position of the eye? Mark a tilted line up from the outside of the crease of the nose toward the inside of the eye.
If you really want to challenge yourself with drawing exercises dealing with the human figure and face, try to draw the head from a lower vantage point looking up into the face. Watch out for making the face too big-truncating the chin and widening the space between the nose and the eyes.
To prevent this, just think egg. Yep, remember the head’s structure is similar to that of an egg. What’s that mean?
+The chin curves toward you, so it is going to be much larger than you’d think.
+The forehead curves away, making it appear like the head recedes sharply at the hairline.
+The nose goes in the air and seems to jut out in front of the eye in a three-quarter view.
More Figures, Tip of Head to Tip of Toes
If you crave the ability to open a sketchbook and sketch a person with confidence and ease, Figure Drawing Essentials Kit is the way. Brent Eviston is a teacher who understands the language of a learning artist and he makes putting limbs, head, facial features, anatomy and proportion together fun!
I know the figure is my biggest challenge, but learning the ins and outs is my delight too. I want the same for you. Enjoy!
A watercolor painting with big-time color intensity from Eleanor Lowden.
You Can Get the Color Intensity You Want
The versatility in watercolors, especially for painting in landscapes, is too great to be ignored, but sometimes it can leave us wanting more color intensity than transparent pigments provide. But don’t you just love when I complain about something and offer a solution in the same breath? It’s a gift.
Enter Eleanor Lowden with a bold approach to watercolors. She goes for opaque colors to create a fall landscape that rivals the saturation of any oil or acrylic painting, but with all the advantages of watercolors.
Here she shares three tips for seeking intense colors in watercolor that give her Courageous Color video its name. Learning painters will find a lot to soak up with these painting ways! Enjoy!
Blue Umbrellas by Eleanor Lowden
Start with No Color At All
Whatever you are painting, take a black and white photograph of it for starters. Use that as a reference so you won’t feel obligated or distracted by the colors in the scene. Instead, you get to build a painting full of the colors you want to see.
Pull Tube Color
It can feel both dangerous and basic to start with color straight from the tube. Soooo much color. Too much color? Never. You’ve got to start with color to get great color.
For your first passes, mix colors in a very minimal way and use little water. Layering and blending come later. For now it is all about courageous color and courageous colors don’t hide
Keep to Your Surface
Color mixing and adding depth to your painting can all take place on your actual surface. It is the same with layering and blending.
Keep to the surface of your painting as you soften edges and merge colors to pull your painting together in a harmonized, beautiful fall scene. Don’t turn away and try to plan on the palette. Instead, work directly and loosely.
More From Eleanor
You can preview Eleanor’s painting techniques here and discover how she goes “no frame” with her watercolors and gives her paintings a backing that stands up to all the color she lets flourish! Enjoy a Courageous Color adventure with her!
Vanitas Still Life by Jacques de Gheyn II. Courtesy of the Met; Charles B. Curtis, Marquand, Victor Wilbour Memorial, and The Alfred N. Punnett Endowment Funds, 1974
Creepy Art We Love
Halloween is so much more than a day filled with trick-or-treating, ghost stories, costumes and gatherings. Halloween represents the creepy, the crawly, the things that make the hair on our arms stand up.
And, as artists and art lovers, what signifies Halloween can be found in famous works throughout art history — in spades! I mean, just take a look at ol’ Francisco Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son, and you will see what I mean. (Yikes!)
Since the actual holiday is just a few days away, we thought it would be only fitting to put an artsy spin on it by doing a roundup of some of the scariest works of art. Get ready, artists, because you’re in for a “treat.” Enjoy!
The Face of War — Salvador Dalí
The Face of War by Salvador Dalí. Courtesy of Wikiart (fair use)
Talk about the ultimate creep factor. It is a perfect example of why I avoid looking at the monsters in ANY horror film. But, let’s be honest, I avoid watching horror films in general.
Nymph and Satyr — Dosso Dossi
Nymph and Satyr by Dosso Dossi. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
I am not completely sure what the story is behind this piece, but the face of the person on the left says it all. Actually, my expression pretty much mirrors the woman’s in this painting right now.
The Silver Tureen — Jean Siméon Chardin
The Silver Tureen by Jean Siméon Chardin. Courtesy of the Met; Fletcher Fund, 1959
Uhm, I don’t know about you, but I usually don’t pose dead animals as the subject of my still lifes. The cat seems to enjoy it though.
The Nightmare — Henry Fuseli
The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Have you ever had a goblin-on-steroids, creep-to-the-max creature sitting on you while a white-eyed, undead horse peers through your curtain? Me either — that I know of; seems like it wouldn’t be that great, though.
The Cyclops — Odilon Redon
The Cyclops by Odilon Redon. Courtesy of WikiArt
OK, is it just me, or does this Cyclops look pretty friendly — and sort of adorable? I mean, it appears to be smiling with its eye so that part is a plus … but still, disturbing.
The Garden of Earthly Delights — Heironymous Bosch
The Garden of Earthly Delights (Prince of Hell) by Heironymous Bosch. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
There is a whole lot of crazy happening in Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights — especially this panel, which is said to depict the “Prince of Hell,” aka that creepy bird person-thingy who is devouring a human while tiny birds appear to be flying out of the person’s … you know. No thank you.
Young Holding his Dead Daughter in his Arms — Pierre-Auguste Vafflard
Young Holding his Dead Daughter in his Arms by Pierre-Auguste Vafflard. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
“Don’t mind me. I am just going to bury this body now.” Not only is this a morbid moment to capture, but it is also quite sad considering this is depicting a man burying his daughter.
Small Portrait of a Girl in Yellow — Paul Klee
Small Portrait of a Girl in Yellow by Paul Klee. Courtesy of the Met; the Berggruen Klee Collection, 1984
Does this portrait need an explanation? I am just going to let you be the judge.
Judith Beheading Holofernes — Artemisia Gentileschi
Judith Beheading Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Wonder if this painting was, in part, inspired by Gentileschi’s frustration over male artists getting all the recognition back in the day? Nonetheless, Holofernes seems to be having quite a bad day here.
Saturn Devouring his Son — Francisco Goya
Saturn Devouring his Son by Francisco Goya. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
It just wouldn’t be a roundup of creepy art if you didn’t include this spine-chilling work of art. Saturn must really hate kids…
And to wrap it up, check out this haunting artwork. Happy Halloween, artists!
Kohada Koheiji by Katsushika Hokusai. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
What is your favorite spooky work of art? Tell us in the comments!
When it comes to watercolor, sometimes mixing colors — especially dark colors — can get a little tricky. But don’t worry, water media enthusiasts, because a true watercolor pro is here to share a few key tricks!
Below, artist and instructor Jean Haines discusses how to embrace the darkest of darks in your water media work without getting overwhelmed.
Embrace the Darkest Darks in Watercolor Painting
I have just taken a week of watercolor painting workshops, and I came across a problem that many watercolor artists have in common. Many of us start a wonderful painting but when we seem to be halfway through the creative process, we hit a wall of what to do next.
Often the problem lies in that the painter has gained such a beautiful result so quickly, he or she is terrified of ruining it by going any further. This can result in many half-finished paintings that never make it to a frame.
I can understand the problem. However, it is only by fighting through the fear that we can improve and grow in technique.
Carnations flowing in a loose watercolor with exciting watermarks and color effects evident within the composition.
To understand how we should progress in any painting, we need to fully comprehend where we are heading. Unfortunately this, too, is a huge problem for many new artists who have yet to find their style. Picking up a brush and simply hoping for the best does not always lead to great results!
So before you begin painting, decide what you wish to achieve — especially if you are aiming to work in a loose, interpretative style of watercolor art.
1. Soft Results
The carnations above were specifically painted with a soft result in mind. The composition indicates a gentle flow of direction. It holds a sense of movement and leaves much to the imagination.
But is it finished? This is where a watercolorist’s personal opinion will make the decision on whether to add more detail or leave the painting as it is.
2. Drama and Definition
I decided to keep going. By working further and adding strong darks to surround the flowers, the composition appears more dramatic.
In the second image, below, where darks have been added as a backdrop they literally jump off the paper but is the original sense of movement that was so beautiful in the first version now lost?
Adding darks can add powerful impact and drama to a watercolor painting.
Adding darks to sections of a painting can make or break the composition. Careful additions of a few brushstrokes can make all the difference to what otherwise could have seemed a boring work.
However, too much definition can kill the excitement and freedom that so many artists struggle to achieve when creating a watercolor painting.
3. Finding the Balance
Trying to create a fantastic masterpiece that screams of fascinating sections and is unique and interesting because of its originality is a hard task. But to the artist who is not afraid of the dark, who knows when to add strong colors and when to leave sections soft as a contrast, the pleasure involved in creating is endless.
Blue Rhapsody by Jean Haines, watercolor painting.
Don’t be afraid of the dark. But do use bold brushwork and color additions wisely.
Study your paintings at different stages in their creation so you know exactly what is needed to either make your work fantastic or just a touch bolder. Most importantly, be unique!
I have exciting news to share! If you love to create as much as we do, you’ll love what I’m about to tell you. In just a few weeks, we’re unveiling a brand new Artists Network destination and merging Artist Daily with Artists Network. This updated website will be built just for you, for artists. It’s everything you already love about Artist Daily and more, all in one place.
You will still be hearing from the same voices (namely me, lol) and receiving the same great art resources you love, just with a shiny new website destination.
Bringing Artists Together
We believe that art is a way of life and everyone is an artist at heart. Here we strive to empower artists with the techniques, knowledge, ideas and inspirations that help ignite their visions and bring them to life.
We put those possibilities in your hands through fun and compelling videos, articles and interactive online features, books and magazines, and real-time events.
Now it will be even easier to get all that instruction and inspiration. The new Artists Network site will be your one-stop shop for all things art.
Stay in the Loop
Be on the look out as we bring Artist Daily and Artists Network together for one amazing art community.
Let us know if you have questions or what you hope to see on the new website. Comment below or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.