Follow Master Oil Painting on Feedspot

Continue with Google
Continue with Facebook

Poetry in Painting

The greatest challenge with art is the subjective nature of it. Something may be ‘technically perfect’ with a piece when measured against traditional principles – the values may be spot on, the design seems fine, no glaring drawing problems.

So if it’s ‘perfect’ why doesn’t it wow us?

Just because we get all the basics correct doesn’t mean we’ve created something awe-inspiring. A perfectly drawn image of a plaster head or a painting that looks exactly like an egg might show impressive drawing skills, but how many other thousands of artists have done the same thing?

Plaster Cast

Light and shadow on a sphere by Paul Calle in his book The Pencil

It’s obvious these are academic exercises in sculpting or drawing. But, how do we know when our paintings have gone from academic to poetic like Scott Conary achieved in his painting of an egg?

Cracked 6 1/2″ x 6 3/8″ – oil painting by Scott Conary

Is it a feeling that tells us when we’ve scaled the summit?

Can we judge by our sales?

Is it based on the awards we win?

All of those situations can be helpful and probably influence our decisions to some degree, but none of them is complete. In fact, they can be misleading because they can change from one moment to another.

Join Our Community of Artists for FREE

Over 31,000 artists already enjoy free Art Training and insider exclusives directly to their inbox each week. We don't spam, your information is never sold or given to anyone else, and our content rocks. Want to learn more?

Yes Please!

Thanks for joining us. Watch your inbox for awesome art related content and free training!

How often have you finished a painting, and heard someone say “wow, that looks just like a photograph”?

The danger in comments like that arises when they cause us to think, “oh, they really like my painting because it looks photographic. If I learn to paint and draw everything in perfect detail, collectors will be so impressed – I’ll sell like crazy.”

Maybe…but probably not. You see, most professional artists can do that. That’s the starting point – not the coveted mountain peak of artistic achievement.

Have you ever seen Charlton Heston in the short clip from Wayne’s World?

Wayne's World 2 (10/10) Movie CLIP - A Real Actor (1993) HD - YouTube

That’s what we’re talking about!

Now, the first guy didn’t do anything wrong – technically – but when compared against Charlton Heston his blandness becomes obvious. Charlton Heston performed with a command and mastery that were entirely his own. Nothing forced, completely engaging – it was pure poetry! (although, I feel a little bad for the first actor…)

Going Beyond the Basics Takes Courage

Mastery of the basics – sound drawing, accurate values, correct color temperatures – all of that is hugely helpful and worth the time it takes to learn. The ability to accurately draw or paint exactly what we see is a strong tool to help us achieve our dreams.

If we want our paintings to mesmerize viewers – to grab ahold of their hearts and create a desire to return again and again just to look at it- that takes something more.

Is it possible to break down exactly what that ‘something’ is and put it in a nicely packaged formula for others to follow? I don’t believe so.

I believe that ‘something’ that takes us from merely competent to a Charlton Heston is waiting dormant inside each of us, and it’s anxious to be released. This type of mastery doesn’t come easily or without concentrated, sustained effort, time, and courage.

Why courage?

Because it takes courage to look at our work against a Charlton Heston model and see if it measures up. Do our paintings shine with poetry?  That poetry which causes others to want to look over and over, because they can’t get enough? Or is it looked at once with the comment,  “that is skillfully done, boy they’re good”, and then move on because it failed to keep their attention?

Clyde Aspevig is a perfect example. He made a major leap in the naturalism of his work in the late 80’s. Here’s an example of his earlier work:

Mountain Colors 30×35 – oil painting by Clyde Aspevig during the 80’s.

Notice all the small details – thin strokes for grasses and branches, predictable and repetitive leaves on bushes.  The edges are mostly hard and obvious even as they recede into the distance. It’s a beautiful painting and expertly crafted but it does not feel natural.

What was the cause for him to decide it needed to be changed? I mean, technically, there’s nothing wrong with it and it’s a nice piece.

Somehow Clyde saw through the superficial merit of his early work, ignored the successful sales that begged him to keep going in the same direction, and reached for something more.

Now, look at a painting from 2014:

Autumn Evening 40×50 – oil painting by Clyde Aspevig completed in 2014

The edges are softer with gentle transitions between shapes.  The colors feel rich and varied with a lifelike atmosphere and harmonizing light that infuses every area in the painting. It feels natural and real – even though he has simplified the details – or rather, because he has simplified the details.

His collectors complained strongly when he began to simplify saying he was ruining his career. He is now considered one of the greatest landscape painters in the world.

Tears Ran Down My Cheeks

You know, I never tire of watching Charlton Heston in that scene with Mike Meyers. How many of our paintings can we say that about? Do we have pieces that call us back over and over because there’s something magical about them?

In 1989 I felt that way while I sat in a room filled with large wildlife paintings by Carl Rungius. They were so beautifully crafted – they brought tears to my eyes.  I’ve never forgotten that experience – I yearn for my paintings to do that for someone one day. This is what I want from my work, this planted a seed for me to reach deeper and push harder in my role as an artist.

Moose 30×40 – oil painting by Carl Rungius

Did Carl Rungius begin his career with such colorful, engaging work?

Nope! Look at this painting from his early days.

At the Deadwater 24×32 – oil painting by Carl Rungius in 1908

Carl experienced his own transitioning journey from darker academic work to imaginatively crafted visions. The key is to be aware and open.

Rungius noticed a shift from darker somber paintings to the light and color filled art of the Impressionists. He was influenced by that movement but did not become a slave to it. His style was uniquely his own.

Conclusion – Climbing Art’s Everest

We all begin with a spark – a desire to create something wonderful.

Jumping right in with both feet doesn’t qualify us to create masterful works of art just because we have a lofty vision.

Generating that blazing wildfire of emotions and awe in our viewers doesn’t come easily. It takes years of study and searching deep within – and miles and miles of applying what’s been learned to our canvases. We can’t become too discouraged when our struggling seems constant.

Quote from Spencer W. Kimball

We also must never become complacent – especially when success strikes.

If we spend our days seeking greatness beyond our present limitations, not to gratify vain ambitions, but to add something beautiful to life, we will each eventually bring tears of gratitude to the heart of another.

So, the challenge now is to look honestly at our own work and efforts. While being grateful for where we are right now, let’s ask ourselves “can we do better? How can we keep reaching higher?”

What George Mallory declared about climbing Everest can be said of our climb as artists: “What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to live. That is what life means and what life is for.”

In a week or two I’ll share with you examples of my own reaching for higher ground. You will see two paintings of mine that I recently reworked – aspens and hollyhocks.

Gold Rush 30×40 – reworked oil painting of aspens by Bill Inman

There was nothing technically wrong with them. They simply didn’t feel like they were enough. They lacked poetry.

Or, maybe I see differently now than I did then.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide if I succeeded in reaching a higher summit. Whether I did or didn’t, I feel much better about them and have taken each to the boundaries of what I can presently see.

I’m excited to keep moving forward and scale art’s Everest with each of you!

The post Transitioning from a Good Artist to a Master Artist appeared first on Master Oil Painting.

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Delicate Strength is one of the newest full-length art training videos found in the Master Oil Painting Membership. At just over four hours long it quickly became one of the members favorite lessons in the library, so I thought a blog breaking down the process into seven steps would be fun and useful.

Please keep in mind that this could have been 700 steps! I chose these specific ones to give you an overview of the major decisions I faced – such as changing the design, choosing shadow colors in the roses, and how much detail to add or leave out.

The Reference Photo and Painting #1

I discovered these roses outside the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. The Smithsonian has fabulous flowers all around the museum grounds.

White roses outside the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC

The first time I used this photo for a painting was about 10 years ago. I really liked the painting when it was finished, and considering how quickly it sold so did my collectors.

Sincere Desire 16×20 – oil painting by Bill Inman

That was done before I started filming my paintings to share with our community. I thought it would be a valuable lesson for our members to have access to so I painted another version.

Making copies of previous paintings, or using an image twice, is something I rarely do (like, maybe 5 or 6 times in 30 years). Most of the revisits were because a collector saw the previous painting and commissioned me to do another. On those occasions, I generally change something so they don’t look exactly alike.

That was what I did this time as well.

The reversed and tweaked white roses image using Photoshop

Since I had a beautiful 11×16 22kt gold frame from Masterworks Frames, the first thing I did was change the image’s proportions to match. Photoshop is a fantastic tool for rearranging and experimenting.

Then I reversed the image.

Join Our Community of Artists for FREE

Over 31,000 artists already enjoy free Art Training and insider exclusives directly to their inbox each week. We don't spam, your information is never sold or given to anyone else, and our content rocks. Want to learn more?

Yes Please!

Thanks for joining us. Watch your inbox for awesome art related content and free training!

You probably noticed in the reference photo that the roses behind the main large flower are all in a straight line. How does that happen in real life?

Using the Lasso and copy/paste tools in Photoshop I changed the positions of a couple of roses. After tweaking the color a bit I called it good so I could get started painting – doing what I really love! I knew there were design problems still, but I figured I would work it out later in the painting.

Here is the finished version of the new white roses painting:

Delicate Strength 11×16 – oil painting of white roses by Bill Inman

Now for the seven steps I chose to share when painting these roses.

7 Steps to Painting Delicate White Roses Step 1

Rather than start with a single color to tone the panel, I decided to work the background shadow values around the approximate shapes of the flowers.

Since there was so much green in the reference image, I chose transparent oxide red as an underlayer. The reddish tones are a wonderful complement for the green leaves.

Notice that I wasn’t worried about drawing everything out first to get the exact shape of the roses. I prefer to lay-in large brush strokes and color shapes and then carve into the shapes to form the flowers.

When I start with detailed drawings, I end up with lifeless plants because I am too focused on painting within the lines. If I draw it out too carefully, I seem to focus on the ‘things’ in the image, rather than the positive and negative shapes, and the edges become harder and less natural.

Also, if I concentrate on basic shapes then it’s easy to move things around if I don’t like the initial composition I’m not as invested.

You can see a cut up credit card in the photo. I love texture in paintings and experimented a bit with a few tools to rough up the background paint. Even in the beginning stages, I will play a lot with brush strokes and texture since those background effects will often show through in the completed painting.

Step 2

The flower shapes were left blank on purpose. With the white of the panel, we can get a more translucent quality in the colors because light bounces off the white and brightens the colors a bit. Now, I realize that much of the panel is going to be covered by opaque paint, but some of it will not and that is where the thinner layers of paint benefit from the white underneath.

At this stage, I try to establish the light and dark values in the roses right off while keeping the center colors clean and bright.

I also begin with a middle-value layer that I can later add highlights to. That will help me capture subtle transitions in the petals’ values from shadows to highlights. I do the same thing with the leaves, only I use much darker middle values than I did for the roses.

The spots of reddish-brown background color were left intentionally to create the feeling of distance in the painting and to take advantage of the wonderful red/green harmony.

Step 3

Next, I began to capture the structure of the rose more clearly with deeper shadows in the center. Once the highlights are added, I will have a wonderful range of values throughout the petals without needing to paint lots of small strokes of color everywhere.

The better I simplify my color strokes, the more natural the rose seems to appear. When I get fussy with too many detailed strokes it seems to make the flower feel forced or contrived. It takes a lot of effort to get my brushstrokes to look effortless. The main thing I worked on in step three was adding leaves and stems.

Notice that I only add detail to specific leaves. Most of them are created with a stroke or two of the brush. If I add too many details to too many leaves it ends up like I described above – it feels unnatural.

The way I develop leaves is by thinking of my light source. Then I know where to put highlights and where to add shadows.

I also use the leaves to guide the viewer around the painting. I can put a bright leaf anywhere I think it will help the painting.

Step 4

Here is where I finally realized the line of four roses in the back was not working well. They were all about the same size, and having them in a straight line was distracting.

The sad thing is, I knew the design was flawed when I had it in Photoshop, and yet I forgot and just seemed to go into autopilot or something. Fortunately, oil paint is entirely forgiving, and I was able to scrape off one with a palette knife and begin relocating and rearranging.

Warm and cool should be every artist’s mantra. There’s something magical about placing warm and cool colors next to one another – they vibrate. That’s why I use a mix of warmer yellow and orange leaves next to cooler bluish leaves or add a highlight of cooler blue to a warm yellow/green leaf. Adding a red highlight or accent can really liven up green leaves as well.

The main thing I focused on in step four was filling out the main rose with bright warm highlights.

To capture those highlights I made sure I had plenty of paint on my brush so I could place each one on in one stroke (with some minor adjustments once the stroke is finished). The Rosemary Masters Series 279 Long Flats are my go-to for graceful fluid strokes.

Step 5

This is where I encompassed the development up some of the other roses.

I really liked the color in the rose we see from the back, but I couldn’t seem to escape them lining up – better than my kids on a homeschool field trip! I put the rose at the top to help break away from the straight lines but soon decided one of them had to go.

The thought of leaving the brilliant salmon colored rose and getting rid of one of the others in the lineup occurred to me, but it was too centered right above the main rose and that seemed awkward as well.

Here and there a new leaf was added around the roses and in spaces that seemed too empty.

That purple leaf on the right was meant to be a complement to all the yellow and orange throughout the flowers.  Some might say it might be too much lavender, but I like the variety, so I kept it on the purple side rather than ‘greening’ it up.

I also like the tie-in it makes to the lavender sky shapes and the lavender colors in the flower petals.

Step 6

Removing the salmon colored rose improved the composition (although, I did leave a spot of that wonderful salmon color).

Filling in the space with ambiguous leaf shapes was enough to add something for the viewer to see without pulling attention away from the main rose.

The big struggle I ran into was the larger rose on the upper left. Early on I thought I had it – then I added a couple more touches and tweaks and voila – I lost it. That one rose took me almost as long to finish as the rest of the painting combined (and I’m still not sure about it).

That’s the nature of painting flowers – when they work they are an artist’s dream subject – when they don’t they can make us curl up in the fetal position mumbling incoherently and questioning our career choice (not really, but it sometimes feels that way).

Step 7

Adding finishing touches like the orange highlight on the edge of the lower left brighter leaf. Small hints of strong color like that can really bring vitality and life to a painting.

Did you notice that the sky brush strokes were left untouched? That’s why even the very beginning background work should be thought through carefully, making the strokes interesting and full of vigor.

The background color on the right started to feel a bit too thin – not really contributing anything fun to the overall painting. So, I added some thicker paint and texture to it. Not too thick – I didn’t want it to draw attention away from the main attraction – but enough to add some more pizazz to the painting.

Finally, the nightmare rose feels better. It is partly cut off by the edge of the painting because I wanted a rose here and there to travel off the picture plane to enhance the illusion of continuance. That way, rather than a portrait of a defined group of roses, it allows the viewer to imagine they are surrounded by flowers because they don’t know exactly how many there might be.


Roses continue to fascinate me – I feel compelled to paint them!  They are such a demanding subject that they consistently keep my brain and my imagination engaged.

Plus, they are just plain fun because there are so many layers of color and contrast within their translucent petals.

If you would like to view the full 4-hour tutorial video you can learn more about The Master Oil Painting Membership here:

What do you find especially challenging about painting roses? What excites you most and drives you..

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Oil painting on a budget.

Is it possible to paint something awesome without expensive art supplies?

Many artists who read my weekly blog posts or follow our Facebook page ask “do I need all those brushes, paints and supplies? I want to create beautiful paintings, but I just can’t afford everything you’ve recommended. Paints and brushes are expensive – can I start with less?”

Yes, of course you can!

Gold Rush 30×40 – oil painting by Bill Inman

I don’t think the creative spirit can be contained, and it does NOT require specific art supplies to thrive. There’s always a way, especially for inventive, imaginative artists.

Let me share some ideas I’ve come across over the years for using inexpensive or minimal art supplies that will allow anyone to paint and learn on a tight budget.

Ideas for Painting on a Tight Budget Paper Bags Anyone?

Have you painted on a brown paper bag before?

Money, or the lack thereof, should NEVER be a reason not to paint!

Stop worrying about expensive materials and simply get started. You can add to your materials over time.

Whether you’re in art school or learning at home, the most important thing is mileage. Produce as many paintings as possible in the shortest amount of time you can manage.

Join Our Community of Artists for FREE

Over 31,000 artists already enjoy free Art Training and insider exclusives directly to their inbox each week. We don't spam, your information is never sold or given to anyone else, and our content rocks. Want to learn more?

Yes Please!

Thanks for joining us. Watch your inbox for awesome art related content and free training!

To help you with that concept, instead of shopping for the best quality linen canvas, experiment with materials you probably already have. Keep in mind – these are not meant for selling – they are intended to speed up your learning curve while sparing your budget. Oil paints on paper will eventually rot and discolor the paper (think of old newspapers).

Here are a few ideas to get your mind running:

  1. Brown paper bags from the grocery store (free)
  2. Cardboard (often free if you look behind office supply stores)
  3. Large sheets of inexpensive stiff drawing paper
  4. Watercolor paper (can be cut easily into smaller pieces)
  5. Matt board (scraps you may have lying around)
  6. Manila File Folders (you can get a box of 100 for $10 at Staples. Cut them in half and that’s a nickel for an 8×11 inch painting surface. Plus, they are a nice color for your underpainting).

Manila folders that can be used for oil painting studies for about 5 cents each

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but hopefully it will get you started.

Coat the paper products with Shellac ($14 at Walmart), PVA glue or size, discount paint or primer at the hardware store or acrylic gesso (primer). You don’t actually need to prime any of them, but it can make it a bit nicer to paint on since the paint doesn’t sink into the paper as much.

Why paint on surfaces that you can’t sell and that might deteriorate over time? Then again, I once framed a piece of disposable palette paper after a painting session. The colors I mixed looked like a beautiful abstract painting and I liked it so much I framed it. A friend came by and he liked it so much he bought it! So you never know I guess.

Mastering art is about painting over and over again and experimenting until the principles sink in. When we paint on expensive surfaces like linen, we are often afraid to experiment because we don’t want to ‘waste’ the material.

With inexpensive surfaces like paper there are several benefits, like being easy to cut into multiple sizes, light to transport outdoors, and they’re cheap! Plus, they are easy to find around the house.

And the greatest benefit of all is that we won’t be afraid to mess up (over and over).

Using cheaper materials allows us to test every technique and idea that comes to us (and not feel bad about shrinking bank accounts). We can get mileage. Make an effort to paint 300 paintings in a year and you will see dramatic strides in your skills and mastery of oil painting.

Child’s Play – oil painting on hot-pressed illustration board by Bill Inman

Child’s Play was an oil painting I did for illustration class on hot-pressed illustration board. It’s more than 30 years old and hasn’t yellowed or rotted away – and no, I did not prime the paper surface.

Limited Palettes and Brushes Dennis Sheehan – Two Colors and a Brush

Dennis Sheehan is a Master Artist who creates beautiful Tonalist paintings.

Sunset Glow 16×29 Oil painting by Dennis Sheehan

He has finished entire paintings with just a 1 ½ inch Benjamin Moore Sash hardware brush; Phthalo Green and Transparent Oxide Red paint; and Linseed Oil for a medium (Pale Drying Oil from Grumbacher – which adds a drying agent to the Linseed to speed up drying time – not something I would recommend).

Dennis’s other supplies included a $2 16×20 inch cotton canvas from Michaels (as mentioned in his Facebook video) and Bounty paper towels (which he used as a brush to move and remove paint).

Here’s a live painting demo Dennis did on Facebook:

Now, using just two colors may limit the subject matter a bit, but for those on a pauper’s budget, it shows you the possibilities. Using two colors and a brush is a great way to work on principles like expressive design and simplified value patterns without breaking the bank.

Also, Dennis doesn’t use only two colors for all of his work.

Golden Hour 36×60 Oil Painting by Kathleen Dunphy framed

Kathleen Dunphy – Six Colors and a few Brushes 

Kathleen started limiting her palette to six colors about 15 years ago. She loves it.

A limited palette helps to mix the colors she sees for a more accurate hue rather than reaching for a paint tube that is ‘close enough’.  She says it’s also easier to recognize and mix correct color temperatures using fewer pigments. Instead of fumbling with a lot of different warm and cools she simply adds yellow to warm the color or blue to cool it.

As for brushes, she recommends using just one brush as long as possible and limits her plein air painting trips to only four or five brushes that she takes with her.

Kathleen’s palette: Titanium White (any brand), Cadmium Yellow Lemon (Gamblin or Utrecht), Permanent Red Medium (Rembrandt), Ultramarine Blue Deep (Rembrandt), Naples Yellow Deep (Rembrandt) and Cold Gray (Rembrandt).

You don’t have to use every color that I have on my palette to paint beautiful works of art.  Experiment with just a few colors and see what you achieve.

You don’t have to use every color that I have on my palette to paint beautiful works of art.  Experiment with just a few colors and see what you achieve.

Low-Cost Oil Painting Brushes

Brushes don’t have to be expensive. Keep in mind that good quality brushes are an investment that can last a long time – sometimes a lifetime. Some of the brushes I use regularly are over 10 years old. Other brushes can be thought of as disposable.

Value pack of paint brushes from Micheals – sold for about $5

Clyde Aspevig buys boxes of cheap bristle filberts because he wears them down quickly and doesn’t want to be tempted to treat them carefully. Throughout the 90’s he was producing over 300 paintings a year with many as large as 60×70.

He paints fast and puts his brushes to task.

View of West Creek Ranch 40×60 – oil painting by Clyde Aspevig

A good-sized brush from Home Depot or Lowes can range from $2 to $20. The problem with the cheap brushes is they tend to lose hairs readily, but for painting studies it might not be a big deal.

Another option is … drum roll please … toilet paper!

I saw a show in the 70’s about a fellow who could finish four seascape paintings an hour using just toilet paper for brushes which he sold at auction for around $60 each. He didn’t even buy the toilet paper – he took it from hotel restrooms (definitely not a recommendation).

I searched toilet paper seascapes and found out his name was Morris Katz – coined ‘the world’s fastest painter’.

Morris Katz Oceanic Seagull 10×8 toilet paper

A paintbrush is simply a way to move paint around and create textures and details. There are all kinds of tools that can accomplish the task, like palette knives and credit cards. Use whatever tools are available until you can add to your supplies.

Bare Minimum Supplies for Light Travel

Here are the bare minimum supplies I use when I want to travel light (or just for the challenge):

  1. Paints – Titanium White, Phthalo Green, Cad Lemon, Alizarin Crimson Permanent, Ultramarine Blue
  2. Brushes – Long Flat Hog Bristle size 12 (like a Rosemary Ultimate), an extra-long Filbert or Egbert size 6, and a Mongoose substitute like a Rosemary Masters Series 279 size 6. A Rosemary Ultimate Long Flat Size 12, a Classic Egbert Size 6 and a Long Flat Series 279 size 6 oil painting brushes
  3. For painting studies – watercolor paper (left over from my college days), any of the papers mentioned earlier, or a couple of ABS plastic panels (no particular size, although I often go with 12×16 inch panels).
  4. No medium (like walnut oil) if I’m traveling light since it’s far from a necessity. Good quality oil paint is generally good to go right out of the tube.
  5. No Turpenoid Naturals because I clean my brushes when I get back. Going without anything to clean my brushes forces me to think clearly about my strokes and simplify the colors and shapes.
  6. A palette knife – maybe – not a necessity.
  7. My easel and palette. Although, I have painted using a foam plate for a palette and the painting on a picnic table.

My backpack holds all my plein air equipment and then some!

See, it doesn’t take much. The variety on my studio palette is for convenience, especially when I’m painting flowers. Painting landscapes on location doesn’t require nearly as many colors. I tend to use the same number of colors simply because I like to, not because I have to.

Not worried about a budget? Check out the Professional Oil Painter’s Supplies List


If your budget is limited or you are just beginning to learn oil painting, use any materials you can get a hold of. The point is to get started and paint as much as possible – I challenge you to go for 300 paintings the first year.

I challenge you to go for 300 paintings the first year.

When you’re first learning, paint with abandon, letting your emotions guide you. Concentrate on simple shapes and keep the details to a minimum.

As you grow in confidence begin to add details that stand out prominently or that give the scene energy and clarity. Practice the Sight/Size method of painting until you can perfectly render the colors and values of any scene in front of you.

Play with different sizes from tiny 3×5 paintings to 24×30 or larger. I also recommend painting from life as exclusively as you can.

Now, keep in mind that most of these ideas are meant to help develop your skills as an oil painter – not necessarily for selling work in galleries. But as you complete more and more paintings you will notice your ability to observe nuances in nature grow stronger and keener. You will begin to recognize subtle shifts in values and colors. You’ll distinguish differences in color temperatures.

Within a short time, you will be more than ready to apply your mastery to other surfaces like linen because your art sales will pay for all the canvas, paint and brushes you need.

Now get to it – Happy Painting!

The post Being an Artist on a Pauper’s Budget – Cheap Art Supply List appeared first on Master Oil Painting.

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

*Special Note: The Plein Air Convention is not a sponsor. Just a great event that I’m happy to share my experience from!

The Plein Air Convention in San Francisco was quite an adventure. The demos were fantastic and the new relationships I formed made it even better!

Leslie Miller – director of the Tubac School of Fine Art and Bill Inman at the Plein Air Convention in San Francisco. I will be teaching a workshop again in Tubac next April!

Before I tell you about the painting demos and products I saw at the Plein Air Convention, let me share some of my journey getting there.

Packing, AirBART, and Getting Lost

Packing for a week-long painting trip is complicated and my large suitcase quickly exceeded the 50 lb. weight limit. I had to do some fancy rearranging with my carry on and my leather bag to get everything to fit. That ended up cutting into my sleep and I got to the airport with 2 ½ hours of shuteye.

After flying into the Oakland airport I caught the AirBART train shuttle with my 110 lbs of luggage in tow. I hadn’t been to San Francisco before, so it was a bit tricky figuring out how to get to my hotel while pushing my bags around.

My luggage holding mostly plein air painting supplies and paintings for the art show at the convention.

Juggling my phone and pushing my luggage wasn’t working, so I took a quick glance at Google maps and saw that my hotel was only a few blocks walking distance. I thought, “no problem, I can walk that far.”

Unfortunately, I forgot that San Francisco is infamous for hills. . . and I got lost.

Hey, Google Maps is NOT easy to navigate in walking mode. It ended up taking me about an hour to get from the shuttle station to my hotel, which again was only supposed to be a couple of blocks worth of walking.

You’re probably wondering, “why didn’t you just catch a taxi or something?”

There were plenty of taxis and public transportation options in San Francisco.

For one thing, I love being outside where I can experience so many wonderful sights and sounds. For another, I’m cheap – at least when I’m on my own!

But mostly it’s because I kept thinking “I’m almost there, just one more gigantic hill.”

If you make it out to San Francisco I’d recommend an Uber or taxi, unless you just really want to get your step counter higher (I wasn’t wearing a smartwatch though, so I can’t say how many steps I got)!

The Plein Air Convention Agenda

Fortunately, I got there a day early so I didn’t miss any important events at the convention.

I did take some time before I left to research all the featured artists and set up my agenda. I learned from the previous conventions that there isn’t time between demos to figure out where to go next. The painting demos leave maybe 5-10 minutes to get a seat at the next one.

Day 3 agenda for the 2019 Plain Air Convention

Plus, they have several artists scheduled at the same time, so you want to know ahead of time which artist’s work matches something you’re working toward. For instance, maybe you’ve been struggling with water reflections and one of the presenting artists is a whiz at reflections. The convention would be weeks long if we went to every individual demo.

The artists are all top-notch so it’s a tough decision. I take consolation in knowing I can at least catch some of them when the videos come out a few months later.

I’m constantly striving to grow my own understanding and skills, especially since Master Oil Painting has grown to include tens of thousands of artists.

Join Our Community of Artists for FREE

Over 31,000 artists already enjoy free Art Training and insider exclusives directly to their inbox each week. We don't spam, your information is never sold or given to anyone else, and our content rocks. Want to learn more?

Yes Please!

Thanks for joining us. Watch your inbox for awesome art related content and free training!

The Artists’ Demos & Lectures Kathleen B Hudson

A couple of years ago Kathleen won the $15,000 Plein Air Salon award and she’s been on fire ever since. I purchased her training DVD because I love the way she paints soft atmospheric light in her landscapes.

Bright Morning, Timberline Falls 18×14 – oil painting by Kathleen B Hudson

Hers was the first demo I watched – kind of. Her demo began at the same time the expo hall opened and I had to grab a Masterworks frame right away for one of my paintings in the art show (the frames tend to sell out quickly).

I was bummed to miss much of Kathleen’s demo and didn’t have a chance to take notes.

Although, I did get a flyer about the light she uses above her easel. She says that you can compensate for poor light when outdoors or in the studio with an ArtEscape battery operated attachment. It looks like a pretty handy tool that I might be trying out in the near future.

Bill and Michael (the owner of Masterworks Frames) at the Plein Air Convention

Joe Paquet

Joe gave the keynote presentation titled Finding an Authentic Voice.

Morning Sun Shark Harbor 18×24 – oil painting by Joe Paquet

Fun takeaways:
  1. “Paint it like it feels, not how it looks.”
  2. “Most art doesn’t connect with us because it wasn’t created with love – the artist loving what they were doing at the moment of the art’s creation.”
  3. “Authenticity is organic. It comes through as we let time teach us.”
  4. Joe doesn’t use any photos – everything is painted from life – usually over several sessions on location.
  5. “It may sound strange or possibly even precious to some of you, but at this point in my life the idea of simply ‘making pictures’ does little for me. The pull of my life now guides me (whether I like it or not) to the conclusion that painting without some deep connection is simply a waste of my time. What is it about a particular place that calls us back again and again?”
Joseph Zbukvic

Joseph is considered one of the best watercolor artists in the world. His demo was spellbinding to watch, and even though I’m an oil painter I was able to walk away having learned from him.

Boulevard St Denice, Paris 39×25 – watercolor painting by Joseph Zbukvic

Fun takeaways:
  1. “One of the biggest mistakes artists make – professional and student alike – is not listening to the painting. They become so locked into the image itself they ignore what the painting wants.”
  2. “There was an American, a Russian and an Irish painter talking about their future plans. The American boasted he would be the first to paint on the moon. The Russian stated she would be the first to paint on Mars. The Irishman said, “I will be the first to paint on the Sun”. The other two laughed – “you’ll burn up!” The Irishman smiled and winked – “don’t be silly, I’ll do it at night”.
  3. Joseph paints every day out on location or plein air. He’s not against using photos, but he loves to be outdoors and has painted from life almost daily for decades.
Kathleen Dunphy

Title from her workshop – What to do When the Workshop is Over: Becoming Your Own Instructor

Kathleen Dunphy’s landscape oil painting demo at the Plein Air Convention in San Francisco

Kathleen is an excellent teacher as well as a fantastic painter (the two don’t always mix). She used a painting she previously started during a plein air trip to teach us how to critique our own work and refine it in the studio.

Fun takeaways:
  1. “Keep a critique notebook.” Kathleen keeps detailed notes about each of her paintings to help her recognize the weaknesses and strengths in each painting and become a master at critiquing her own work. She writes down anything that bothers her before she attempts to finish the painting when she’s back in the studio.
  2. Watch out for critiques from other artists – don’t paint the way they would paint it. Make sure their critiques are about principles of art, not about their preferences.
  3. Create focal paths, not focal points. Focal points are targeted to one spot while focal paths lead the viewer through the painting.
  4. Before you paint an animal, draw it from multiple views. You have to know the character of the animal to paint it convincingly and to know when the camera is capturing an uncharacteristic pose.
  5. She paints on Wind River Arts’ AC 14 – acrylic primed linen.
Brian Blood

Title from his workshop – Simplify the City

A view of the screen that helped us watch Brian Blood’s Demo during the Plein Air Convention.

I’ve watched and admired Brian’s paintings for years. I was excited to see him take a complicated city scene and show us how he eliminates unnecessary details.

Fun takeaways:
  1. “The most important perspective line is the eye-level line.”
  2. He left the breaking up of large masses of smaller distant buildings for last – working trees, roads and cars around them first to help him know how much detail the buildings would need to in the end.
  3. He uses a larger 6 or 8 size flat bristle brush for most of the painting.
  4. He used horizontal strokes of warm bright tones to break up the large middle masses of buildings – using lots of variety in color and value, to give the illusion of lots of buildings – without adding too many small details.
  5. Perspective is an important element to secure a convincing painting.
  6. Squint and learn to see big shapes and patterns, not small confusing architectural details.
Mike Hernandez

Mike uses gouache for most of his plein air paintings. I don’t paint with gouache.

You might be wondering, “Then Bill, why did you watch his demo?”

Mike Hernandez from DreamWorks Animation teaching us how to use gouache for capturing plein air landscapes.

Because he is a master at creating the type of..

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Wow sums it up! Kristie and I had an incredible experience on Kiawah Island where I got to teach a 4-day oil painting workshop.  Dolphins, alligators, dancing, friendship and lots of painting were all part of the fun.

One of the five alligators Kristie and I saw while riding our bikes one evening.

Last fall Beth invited me to teach a group who had been painting together each year for the past 24 years. They are all good friends who love art and create works in lots of different mediums and styles – watercolor, acrylic, sculptural paper, oil painting, seascapes, wildlife, horses, birds, and landscapes.

Only a few of them use oil paint, but they love to get together. So, they play with a different medium each year by inviting a professional artist to teach them for a week.

The workshop started on Monday, but they all met earlier to paint Sunday at Beth’s family’s farm. The farm was originally built by her grandfather and has grown over the generations to become unbelievably beautiful.

The family farm 45 minutes from the Kiawah Island Workshop – photo by Beth

The Azaleas, which bloom for about a week each year, were in full color. Fortunately, Beth brought some cuttings back for me to use for the first demo Monday morning.

The Plantation House

The plantation house where we all slept and painted during the workshop was breathtaking. It’s a couple hundred years old, and the house was restored to its original historical condition after a fire destroyed most of the building.

Beth and her family have added stunning rooms and windows to the side facing the salt marsh.

The Plantation House with newer addition of large windowed rooms

The house is four stories and provided room for all the guests to stay so they could talk and paint together the whole week. Beth kept plenty of drinks and snacks available throughout the day for everyone. All of us were able to relax and concentrate on painting and learning.

We were all so worn out from painting all day that the hot tub got a lot more visitors than the pool, but Kristie often soaked her feet in the cool water while she read a book.

Kristie and I soaking our feet in the pool water after a day of painting and teaching – photo by Linda Olsen

There was a paved path that led straight from the Plantation House to the beach.

The path from the Plantation House to the beach – a quick 5-minute bike ride – photo by Linda Olsen

Each afternoon after the day’s demo and teaching, Beth had bikes ready for us. With a short 5-minute ride we were looking for shells and walking through the surf.

Kristie enjoying the shallow shoal and soft sand of the Kiawah Island beach

Monday Morning – Art Supplies & Azaleas

Monday morning, I started by sharing a lot of what I have learned about art materials. The nice thing about driving instead of flying was having plenty of room to take extra art supplies along.

I wish someone had taught me 30 years ago what I know now about painting materials and art supplies!

Azaleas that Beth brought back from her family farm – I used them to paint the demo from life

After breaking down my favorite supplies, I got to play with strong crimson colors in a 12×16 demo of Azaleas Beth brought back from the farm. Some of those crimson colors were so brilliant and bright they were tough to duplicate with the colors on my palette (we’ll talk more about this concept within the next couple of weeks).

Azaleas demo – Bill painting from life Monday morning during the Kiawah Island workshop

With all the crimson colors in the flowers, I decided to start with a greenish manganese background as a complement to all the reds.

I focused the teaching on the use of strong contrasts and saturated color for drama. I emphasized the use of light and shadow to create movement through the painting. We also discussed how white paint cools and desaturates colors – a good reason to create flower petals with as little white as possible for strong, vibrant translucent color.

Putting some touch ups on the Azaleas right before the next morning’s demo

The next morning, as I prepared for the demo of Spanish Moss, I put a few needed touches on the Azalea demo. Lunch was waiting the previous day, so I didn’t have a chance to tone down the background greens.

Join Our Community of Artists for FREE

Over 31,000 artists already enjoy free Art Training and insider exclusives directly to their inbox each week. We don't spam, your information is never sold or given to anyone else, and our content rocks. Want to learn more?

Yes Please!

Thanks for joining us. Watch your inbox for awesome art related content and free training!

I also added some brighter pink flowers to lead the viewer better around the painting. Total time for the demo was around 2 hours.

After lunch, I got to spend the rest of the afternoon traveling around the house and porch area helping each of the other artists with their paintings.

Tuesday – Spanish Moss and Azalea Bushes

Tuesday morning Beth said she wanted some insights about painting the beautiful Spanish Moss draping over the Oak Tree branches and other plants. She asked if I could paint from one of her photos taken at the farm that also showed a lot of azalea bushes.

If you have to paint from photos an Apple computer monitor is a good way to go!

Spanish Moss and Azalea Bushes oil painting demo by Bill Inman during the Kiawah Island Workshop

I chose to leave out the evergreen hedge that was visible in the photo because it was such a strong visual barrier to moving back in the painting.

Since there was so much going on in the photo, and to really show some of the techniques I would use to paint the moss and bushes, I chose a larger 16×20 ABS panel for the painting.

I had not previously painted Spanish Moss. With a large Rosemary 2085 Egbert or a Utrecht 103 extra-long Filbert laid flat, I was able to drag the brush lightly over the other colors and leave behind a fun semblance of the beautiful moss.

After about 2 ½ hours of painting I had demonstrated how to quickly block in the major masses and shapes as well as establish the light and shadow needed for interesting forms. I also got the Spanish Moss draped over the large Oak Tree branches.

Denise asked to purchase the demo, so Friday morning I took it outside to tweak it a bit for her.

The final version of the Spanish Moss and Azalea bush demo by Bill Inman

I added some highlights to the flowers, moss, and trees, and I deleted a large lower branch to open things up and eliminate some confusing overlap of shapes. Total painting time was about 3 hours.

Wednesday – Sunset Demo & Eliminating White

Wednesday Beth told me she was preparing to do some sunset scenes for a children’s hospital wing. She does some amazing things with her wall-sized artwork that allow children in the hospital to interact with the art.

She asked if I would do a demo of sunset colors – especially since it was supposed to rain all morning.

The photo references she had contained beautiful sunset yellows and oranges streaking across the sky, but the landscape portion was completely dark. That meant that I needed to use what I knew from painting and observing on location to fill in the missing information.

I pray each morning before I start working, but at this point I sent up another prayer asking for some guidance about what principles would best serve everyone that morning. The thought came immediately to demonstrate how to paint brilliant vivid sunset colors without using white paint. I told everyone I would be painting in a style closer to what I did back in the 90’s, but I didn’t tell them that the idea of not using white was a new one.

While I did use some white in the blues and lavenders in the sky, all the reds, yellows, and oranges were completely free of white paint. I used the paint as it came from the tube, or by mixing them together with other colors.

Sunset demo by Bill Inman using reds, yellows and oranges without adding white

I began with Cad Red Medium and progressed through the painting with Cad Red..

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

We did a live Q&A with Peter Fiore last week and dozens of awesome questions poured in from attending artists. I thought I would share a few treasures from the hour-long session that cover shadows/highlights, favorite art books, composition, and what Peter’s painting palette looks like.

Just in case you’re not already familiar with Peter, here’s the interview we did with him last year so that you can get to know him before seeing his Q&A session: masteroilpainting.com/blank-canvas-an-interview-with-peter-fiore/

One thing I’ve noticed about artists throughout the years is that they tend to be generous people, and the ‘secrets’ of being a master artist are quickly shared when asked. If we can help someone else move forward in this incredible art journey, we are all in.

The Q&A session was supposed to be ½ an hour, but Peter said to just keep going since so many artists had questions for him. In fact, there were enough questions asked to fill several hour-long sessions, but our energy levels didn’t let us go any longer than an hour. Peter and I hope to do another session again soon though, so keep an eye out for that announcement sometime in the future.

Here’s how we got started:

Who is Peter Fiore? - YouTube

Request your exclusive invitation to paint along with Peter Fiore in his upcoming Winter Tangle training video!

Request Invitation

You're In!

Questions and Answers with Peter Fiore

Here are a few of the awesome questions artists asked during the Q&A.

Q. Erika asked, “Any tips on determining the color and placement of shadows and highlights when trying to capture the feel and spirit of landscape?”

A. The landscape that I’m painting is not so much what I’m looking at, it’s what I want it to be. Meaning, I don’t just paint what I see, I want to interpret what I’m seeing. So, a lot of it comes down to concept and the mood and feeling that I want.

Now, once I understand what that is, I can go ahead and structure the values and the color to best communicate what I’m feeling.

Whether you paint from life or from a photograph, your obligation is to the painting, not to the scene. The scene is something you are to interpret!

Shadows and Highlights in Landscape Painting - YouTube

Q. Fay asked, “Do you recommend any books for materials or methods?”

A. Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting – it’s the art bible in learning how to interpret nature; Alla Prima II by Richard Schmid

The Best Landscape Art Book - YouTube

Q. Terri followed up asking if Peter used Edgar Payne’s Composition of Outdoor Painting.

A. Peter described his process of designing a painting. When he was 10 years old his dad gave him a camera that “became glued to my face for the next six years.” Looking through the viewfinder to discover interesting scenes, composition became very intuitive. He cautioned to beware painting only to rules like the rule of thirds.


Because “pretty soon you’re gonna bore yourself and then you’ll find that your audience knew it long before you were aware of it.”

Peter Fiore on Edgar Payne’s Composition of Outdoor Painting - YouTube

Q. And then Erika asked if Peter could talk about what his painting palette looks like (what’s on it).

A. Peter said that he works with a “very basic palette”, and has used the same one since he was in school. He works with dual primary colors so that he can get the widest range of colors when mixing. Peter went on to detail some of the specific colors he uses outside of his primary colors, like orange which he said he uses to often that it’s easier to have ready on his palette instead of mixing it each time it’s needed.

“I only have like 12 colors on my palette” said Peter. He said that very rarely he adds another color, unless “something spectacular has to be done.”

Using a very simple palette helps you learn your colors and how to make the colors you want.

Peter Fiore's Painting Palette - YouTube

Paint Winter Tangle with Peter Fiore

Don’t miss out on your chance to paint along with Peter in his upcoming Winter Tangle training video.

You can request your free invitation below.

What questions would you want to ask Peter when we do our next Q&A session?

And are there any other artists you would love to hear from sometime in the future?

Tons of Free Art Training to Enjoy Today

At Master Oil Painting we know how passionate artists are about growing and bettering their craft, which is why we create and sell the world’s best art training and lessons. To help even more artists accelerate their growth we’ve taken a selection of our paid training and created a completely FREE art training library for everyone to enjoy!

Visit our free art training library here: https://www.masteroilpainting.com/free-art-training/

Find out why over 11,000 artists visit our free art training library every week, and why over 5,000 artists have shared it with their friends: https://www.masteroilpainting.com/free-art-training/

The post Q&A with Master Artist Peter Fiore appeared first on Master Oil Painting.

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

What green do you have on your oil painting palette right now?

I’ve played with a lot of greens over the past 30 years. Everything from Rembrandt Green, Chromium Oxide Green, Viridian and Prussian Green, and a few others.

Some of the green oil paint brands and colors I’ve used during my 35 year painting career.

At times I’ve even eliminated green entirely from my palette and simply mixed all my greens from blues, yellows and reds. Some artists go as far as to say that green should never be on an artist’s palette.

There’s no magic formula when it comes to what colors work best for all artists. So, using green or getting rid of it is simply a personal preference.

My Favorite Greens

For most of the last 20 years I’ve added primarily Sap Green Permanent and Phthalo Green to my palette. Neither green is essential, but they are definitely convenient.

If I had to limit it to just one green however, it would be Phthalo Green (also called simply Thalo).

Phthalo Green is a versatile and intense color. A tiny bit goes a long way! That’s one of the reasons it scares off a lot of artists. It’s easy to grab too much and overpower everything.

And on top of that, it’s awful looking by itself. Used alone it would be difficult to match it to any plant’s natural color.

Phthalo Green thinly brushed on my palette. Notice how dark it is out of the tube by looking at my paint brush.

Fortunately, mixed with other colors it is beautiful.

In the early 90’s I used Viridian because that is what most professional artists I knew were using. I found over time that it didn’t have quite the kick I wanted for certain foliage though.

While browsing through Meininger Art Supply in Colorado Springs I noticed Phthalo Green. The name alone was so intriguing that I bought a tube. That’s when Viridian faded from my view. In reality, Phthalo isn’t a perfect replacement for Viridian, but it’s close enough for me.

Join Our Community of Artists for FREE

Over 31,000 artists already enjoy free Art Training and insider exclusives directly to their inbox each week. We don't spam, your information is never sold or given to anyone else, and our content rocks. Want to learn more?

Yes Please!

Thanks for joining us. Watch your inbox for awesome art related content and free training!

Because it is such a dark transparent hue coming out of the tube it is excellent for cooling down shadow mixtures. A rich, cooler-temperature and dark-value shadow combination is Alizarin Crimson Permanent, Phthalo Green and a touch of Ultramarine Blue. That’s where Viridian falls short – it’s too light for deep shadows.

Using Green in Shadow Mixes

In the pic below are some shadow mixtures I often use in my paintings. The differences in hue are subtle and take some keen observing, but you can see a definite shift in color temperature from warm to cool.

Shadow oil paint mixtures using Ultramarine Blue, Alizarin Crimson Permanent, Phthalo Green and Transparent Oxide Red (with Titanium White in the lighter portions).

Sap Green is one I use for shadows in place of Phthalo when I want a slightly warmer green. Sure, I can mix Sap myself, but I like the convenience of it. Most Sap green out of the tube is simply Phthalo Blue and Diarylide (Indian) Yellow, which is why Sap Green is a color that I occasionally eliminate and mix myself.

Phthalo Green makes fantastic warm and cool greens depending on what it is mixed with.

My Phthalo Green Mixture Grid

Here’s a snapshot of some simple greens I mixed up quickly using Phthalo Green and one other color – Cad Lemon, Cad Orange or Cad Red Medium (with varying degrees of Titanium white). Referencing the numbers next to each square I will describe the mixtures below.

Phthalo Green Mixture Grid

  1. Phthalo Green, Cad Lemon and Titanium White – heavy on the green and White.
  2. Phthalo Green and Cad Lemon – no White
  3. Phthalo Green, Cad Lemon and White – heavy on the Lemon with a touch of green and White.
  4. Phthalo Green and Cad Orange – heavy on the orange with a touch of White.
  5. Phthalo Green and Cad Orange – no White – keeping the mix distinctly green with a hint of Orange.
  6. Phthalo Green, Cad Orange and White – heavy Green and White with a touch of Orange.
  7. Phthalo Green, Cad Red Medium, White – heavy on Cad Red – touch of White and Green.
  8. Phthalo Green, Cad Red Medium, White – heavy Green – touch of White and Red.
  9. Phthalo Green, Cad Red Medium – no White.
  10. Phthalo Green, Cad Yellow Medium – no White.
  11. Phthalo Green – nothing else.
  12. Phthalo Green, Cad Red Medium and White – just a touch of White and Green
Limiting Ourselves

Did you know that most people ignore the majority of their closet?

In a study of 20 countries around the world they found that 53%-88% of our wardrobe is never worn (source). It’s easy to slip into habits and wear the same 20% of clothes over and over.

Wearing the same clothes over and over?

The same thing happens with particular colors. We are creatures of habit. It’s easy to fall into a routine of reaching for the same color mixtures and forget the vast range of choices we have at our disposal. Each of our palette colors offers incredible possibilities when mixed with other colors.

It’s especially tough when we’re working quickly to capture a scene before the light changes during plein air painting. Maybe this will help you (and me) remember just how versatile and handy Phthalo Green is.

In the Hands of a Master

Peter Fiore demonstrates what Phthalo Green can do in the hands of a Master painter. In Winter Tangle – the film coming to the Membership in just a few weeks – Peter uses Phthalo Green often to modify and create rich saturated colors in his magical mix of tree limbs and bark texture.

Peter Fiore Demonstrates How to Use Phthalo Green - YouTube

You can request your exclusive invite to Peter’s training launch here:

Peter Fiore Training Invitation

Remember to keep exploring and testing because we have unlimited creative opportunities with our modern mix of paints.

What are some of your favorite colors and why do you like them?

Learn to Paint Your Own Masterpiece – no cost

At Master Oil Painting we know how passionate artists are about growing and bettering their craft, which is why we create and sell the world’s best art training and lessons. To help even more artists accelerate their growth we’ve taken a selection of our paid training and created a completely FREE art training library for everyone to enjoy!

Visit our free art training library here: https://www.masteroilpainting.com/free-art-training/

Find out why over 11,000 artists visit our free art training library every week, and why over 5,000 artists have shared it with their friends: https://www.masteroilpainting.com/free-art-training/

The post Why (and how) I Paint with Phthalo Green appeared first on Master Oil Painting.

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

In the previous two blog posts we covered what artists sight is and how to develop artists sight. Today we conclude this 3 part series on artists sight by delving a bit deeper to discover how we can apply this information toward creating stronger paintings.

If you missed the two previous week’s post then be sure to check them out:

Painting from Life vs Painting from Photos

We hear repeatedly to ‘paint from life’ rather than depending completely on photos. But why does it matter?

Can’t we get plenty of information from photos to master oil painting?

Artist painting from a photo in her studio

Well, based on what we learned from Mike May’s experience in Part 1 of this series, and what researchers are discovering about eyesight and the brain, the answer seems to be – No!

We Need Experiences Combined with Images

Remember what we read in the first post about plasticity:

“20 years following his surgery May can see colors, motion, and some simple two-dimensional shapes, but he can’t distinguish 3-D forms, faces, objects or scenes from one another. He can’t tell the difference between a male and female face, and if he’s walking across a street and comes to a sidewalk that doesn’t have a significant shadow or difference in color, he can’t tell it’s there.

Recent research suggests that the part of the brain that processes 3-D recognition is not developed fully until we become adults. So, those who lose their sight at a young age never have a chance to develop that crucial part of the eye-brain equation – what scientists call experience-dependent plasticity.

That means that our ability to clearly see all the nuances of life is made possible by our brain.”

That phrase ‘experience-dependent’ is the crucial part.

We are born with neurons that are dedicated to helping us specifically with shape and form recognition. But those neurons don’t gather information simply by looking. Our brain gathers information from all our senses to help us recognize one shape from another.

When we talked in the last post about the years it takes us to identify faces, it is not just by seeing the same face over and over. As we grow, we engage all our senses to teach us how to recognize and remember people.

Me and my 3 year old grandson playing with blocks

We can uncover a lot about ‘learning to see’ by watching infants and toddlers grow and interact with the world around them.

How We Learn to See in 3-Dimensions

What’s one of the grossest ways children drive their parents crazy?

By putting everything into their mouths – coins, their feet, dog ears, dirt, tv remotes.

Are babies born knowing that shoving everything into their mouths will make their parents screech in horror and fret about all the bacteria they just consumed? Probably not. But they are born knowing something much more valuable.

When we’re born our minds understand the critical need for sensory experiences to develop the ‘experience-dependent plasticity’ we talked about.

What does that mean? Well, let’s see what the ‘kitten experiment’ can teach us.

Held, R. and Hein A. (1963). Movement-produced stimulation in the development of visually guided behavior. Jouranal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology
56(5): 872-876.

Richard Held and Alan Hein conducted an experiment with kittens in 1963. The kittens were raised in total darkness except for short periods where they were placed in individual baskets on a carousel. One kitten could use its legs to move the basket forward.

The other kitten could not use its legs – it was pulled around by the first kitten. Both saw exactly the same scene as they went around the carousel.

When they finished the experiment the kitten that used its legs could do things the other kitten could not do – like swat a rolling ball with its paws or move around furniture on its own.

The second kitten had no depth or object perception at all. Just like Mike Mays – it was functionally blind. Its eyes were healthy, but it couldn’t ‘see’.

Kitten playing with a ball.

All animals – lions, dogs, rhinos or humans – need to interact with their environment. Touching, tasting, hearing, smelling and moving all contribute to our understanding of objects and 3-D reality.

Our other senses like smell and touch combine with our eyes’ information to teach our brain. That knowledge is essential for the brain to learn to see and move through an environment.

Simply seeing the world passively without moving around in it is not enough.

Transforming Our Paintings Through Experiences

Okay, so what does that tell us about painting from photos compared with painting from life?

When we paint outdoors or from life, we experience the atmosphere – the sights, sounds and smells. We feel the breeze and the warmth of the sun. We hear the snow crunch under our boots and feel the moisture from our warm breath freeze against our cheeks.

When we look at a photo we see an image. That’s it.  Maybe it will jog our memories, but mostly it supplies us only with details. Our minds have nothing to grab onto.

Much like the second kitten in the above experiment, we are passive viewers.

There’s something magical that happens when we paint from life. It’s hard to put into words – like trying to describe the taste of salt to someone who’s never tasted it (really, try – it’s impossible to describe salt).

There’s power in the combined efforts of our senses. We gain a greater understanding of the light, the color harmonies and the value transitions.

If we paint exclusively from photos, we can probably learn to technically replicate the details in the photo, but our paintings will suffer for it. Our paintings will never quite gain that feeling of life that we so readily see missing in photos.

Eric Rhoads, in his Outdoor Painter Podcast, tells of a Russian Master coming to his studio. Without hesitation the master pointed to those paintings Eric did from photos and those he did from life.

Marias River 20×30 – oil painting by Clyde Aspevig

Clyde Aspevig, one of the most admired landscape painters in the world, is an avid plein air painter. His ‘field studies, smallish plein air works painted quickly on canvas or board, are at the heart of each larger painting. Aspevig likens his extensive collection of field studies, which he stores in long cubbies like a vinyl record collection, to his personal journal.

He doesn’t keep a written diary, but says the studies serve as an emotive visual record.

“I can tell you what was happening on that day, who I was with, what the weather was like,” he says, pulling out study after study: a camp in the California redwoods, a Wind River pack trip, a Katahdin Lake canoe expedition, a winter day in Sweden, and on and on.’

Here’s a photo of the Marias River.

Marias River Photo

Look at the difference in feeling between Clyde’s painting and the photo. The photo is nice, but Clyde’s painting feels alive with light and color and atmosphere.

Do you think that Clyde could have created a painting filled with such magical color nuances and value transitions if he had spent his career painting only from photos?

Combining Photos and Life Painting

So, with all of that in mind, should we paint exclusively from life – start and finish every painting on location?

Some artists like Rose Frantzen are against the use of photos completely. Others like Richard Schmid believe in the use of any tool that will improve our opportunities and our paintings. And Daniel Gerhartz says it’s harder to paint from photos than from life because so much information is missing in the photos.

Whether we choose to use photos or not, the consensus among top level artists and the science of ‘seeing’ seem to agree on at least one thing.

White River Crossing 12×16 Oil Painting by Bill Inman – painted almost entirely on location

Experience is crucial for artist’s sight! And experience involves much more than passively looking at photos.

Suggestions for Painting from Life

Now, how much or how little we paint from life, our imagination, or photos has much to do with our individual personalities and circumstances. Not all of us are able to get out and paint on location due to health issues, financial limitations, work schedules, family obligations – many things can get in the way.

But, even with tough circumstances, most of us can paint from life.

Grab a spoon and fill a bowl with cereal – set it beside your easel, point a light at it and paint what you see. Look out an open window so you can feel the air and hear the sounds of passing traffic or children playing catch. Then paint what you experience in that moment.

Can’t get outside? Open a window to feel the air and watch the shadows change.

I do paint a lot from photos, especially for the Master Oil Painting training videos. But my paintings are informed by the 30 years of painting on location that I’ve experienced.

And even with 30 years experience I’m still learning just how critical outdoor painting is for me. When I paint from photos over an extended period of time, and don’t get outside to paint from life, I can feel myself begin to struggle and lose confidence.

Conclusion – Help the World Gain Artists Sight

Artists Sight requires experiences that engage our senses. That means no more passive observing for us.

Can anyone gain artist’s sight?

I believe so! If they are willing to put in a whole lot of work.

Let’s take what we’ve learned over the past 3 weeks about recognizing the beauty around us, the 1-millimeter difference and experience-dependent sight and combine them all into a focused journey toward oil painting mastery.

We know now that seeing involves the brain much more than the eyes. And truly seeing beauty in all its forms requires interacting with our environment. Painting plein air or from life is the perfect way for us to interact and help our minds to see.

Once we’ve gained artist’s sight it’s time to share.

We artists have a marvelous opportunity – we can help those around us to see the beauty that Heavenly Father created for His children to enjoy.

It will take time and patience – both from artists and others.

Artists must be patient with their friends and loved ones who don’t understand why they are so excited about light striking tree bark. Others need to be patient with themselves – artists sight isn’t developed overnight the way Mike May’s vision was restored. It takes cultivation and repetition.

Cloud Burst 24×30 – oil painting by Bill Inman – painted from photos and imagination

The photo reference for Cloud Burst taken in Hays, Kansas

The same holds true for those just beginning to paint. Seeing the nuances and subtle shifts that give reality the feeling of life takes time and concentrated observation.

Noticing the way edges of a tree branch transition from hard to soft to lost, or the way leaves in a bush move from cool greens to warm – that all takes time. It is a rewiring of the brain – connecting synapses and creating conduits that haven’t been formed yet.

The wonder of it all is that it can be done. The brain is a marvel – there is nothing as magical among all of our Father’s creations. Why don’t we devote ours to filling the world with light and beauty and help others see and experience the joy we feel as artists!

Learn to Paint Your Own Masterpiece – no cost

At Master Oil Painting we know how passionate artists are about growing and bettering their craft, which is why we create and sell the world’s best art training and lessons. To help even more artists accelerate their growth we’ve taken a selection of our paid training and created a completely FREE art training library for everyone to enjoy!

Visit our free art training library here: https://www.masteroilpainting.com/free-art-training/

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

I became intrigued with the concept of ‘artists sight’ a few weeks ago and decided to write a post to share my thoughts, but as I continued to study the subject it became clear that a single post just wouldn’t cut it.

So, are you ready to continue exploring this fascinating idea with me?

These three posts work together to answer questions we all have about how artists learn to see the world – and then paint it. Last week we discussed what artists sight is and next week we’ll explore how to hone and apply it to painting.

If you missed last week’s post then be sure to check it out, and then watch your inbox for next week’s satisfying conclusion.

Today we’re going to discuss the nuances of artists sight and how we can begin to acquire it. I’ll teach you what I’ve learned about recognizing faces and how that applies to developing ‘artist’s sight’.

The Relationship Between Our Eyes and Brain

To understand the concept we need to talk a bit about how the brain and eyes work together.

I’ve often wondered why the arts seem different from other fields when it comes to the time it takes to master them. The extra time needed can often discourage beginners because of the extended painting-mastery-learning-curve.

Artists sight – the relationship between our eyes and brain

This will make more sense as we discuss how we learn to see, and then we’ll talk about how to develop an ‘artist’s sight’.

Learning to See

Much of what we know about the way we see is still a mystery. The brain is complicated. Research really took off in the early 60’s and is still far from any finite conclusions.

Even when our eyes are healthy, we’re not born seeing the world in perfect clarity. We don’t open our eyes and BOOM – there’s the world in all its glory. We ‘learn’ how to see – and some things take years of practice.

Have you ever been crestfallen when you went to visit your grandchild for the second or third time and they ran away crying when you tried to give them a hug. You might have said something like “don’t you remember me, it’s Grandma?”

Why don’t grandchildren always recognize you?

There’s a reason they might not recognize you.

Our ability to distinguish one face from another is a skill we gain by experience. Even at 5 or 6 years of age we are still learning how to recognize faces. Through the course of childhood we eventually become experts at seeing faces, but it takes years of practice.

The Millimeter of Difference

Most faces are essentially the same. There may be only a millimeter of difference between the size of one person’s nose compared with another. Yet that one millimeter can dramatically alter how one person looks to us compared to someone else.

The same holds true with animals.

I’ve seen thousands of sheep in my lifetime. When I look at a herd of sheep I see a bunch of animals that all look alike. When a shepherd looks at his flock of sheep, with a quick glance he can recognize each one individually.

How does he do it?

Intense practice. He spends everyday of his life learning to really ‘see’ the sheep. They become his friends.

He sees the millimeter of difference.

We all look different, but not by much.

That same phenomenon holds true with people from different ethnic groups. Mongolians, Americans, Africans or Indians – we all have as many differences in facial features as any other group, yet we often hear one group say about another that “they all look alike.”

That’s true – at least to someone who is not practiced at ‘seeing’ them.

Is it a malfunction in our eyes – or some kind of prejudice? Of course not. We don’t really see with our eyes. We see with our brains.

We See What We Train Our Brains to See

Our brains simplify and lump things together to save us time and confusion. When a culture has strong defining facial characteristics that are different from our culture, our brains lump things together.

Once we gain experience seeing the subtle differences – the one millimeter – they no longer ‘all look alike’.

The same principle holds true with any object or complicated shape – fish, trees, clouds, bees, leaves, rocks – it’s all in the brain.  The more we study the nuances of objects the greater our knowledge pool and the more our brains instinctively see the differences.

All of those nuances are needed if we want to add more life to our paintings.

Can Artists Sight be Taught?

A quick Google search reveals how hotly contested this subject is. Are you born an artist or are you taught how to become an artist?

While I think some are born with natural creative inclinations and abilities, I emphatically believe that anyone can learn to become an artist. It takes effort and a lot of really hard work, but I have no doubt that it can be learned.

Hand in hand, I also believe that an artists sight can be learned, and that you can start at any age.

Kristie’s Artistic Adaptation

Kristie was riding a horse before she could walk, and she set a state record in high school Little Britches for pole bending. She has a true rodeo heart and mind.

Kristie Inman barrel racing during a Little Britches high school rodeo competition

If she looks at a herd of horses that are all the same color and height she can quickly recognize the horses as individuals. When I see them, I just see a bunch of horses.

She trained her brain to see the millimeter of difference – in horses.

Growing up in Woodland Park, Colorado she was surrounded by miles and miles of public forests – with an incredible view of Pikes Peak. She rode through those woods all the time and saw the trees and the mountains from the back of her horse almost every day.

However, she simply saw them as a place to go riding. She never looked at them through the eyes of an artist – wanting to capture the unique identity of each tree. Each tree looked like all the other trees in the forest.

Our brain needs to know what we are looking for, so it can create pathways. Those pathways take time and repeated effort to build. They eventually lead to the stores of accumulating knowledge that will help us see the unique quality of individual objects like rocks or trees.

Now that Kristie and I have been married for 30 years she’s gotten tuned into what I look for and how I see beauty everywhere. She’s also become used to my missing highway exits because I was studying the light on the trees ahead of us instead of the road signs.

Through repeated experiences and concentrated effort she is now able to more fully see the abundant beauty that surrounds each of us. Today, Kristie can see the subtle differences in a landscape almost as well as she can a herd of horses.

The same thing happened with our children as well.

Tawnymara and a DC Sunrise

While in high school our daughter Tawnymara was blessed to go to a Youth Leadership Conference in Washington D.C. The participants were all young leaders from schools across the nation and they got to visit with and learn from government dignitaries.

Early one morning they hopped on buses to go see some of the sites and monuments. She was strongly affected by the things she saw and read, especially at places like the Holocaust Museum.

One of her biggest surprises, however, came during the bus ride there.

Jefferson Memorial at dawn by Tidal Basin in Washington D.C.

She was talking with students around her when she suddenly noticed the sunrise and exclaimed to everyone to look at how beautiful it was.

They all looked at her as if she were odd. “It’s just a sunrise” they said.

It seems Tawnymara had a different view than everyone else on the bus, even though they were looking at the same scene. But why?

Tawnymara and I stayed at Snow Mountain Ranch for a Plein Air Painters of America workshop week

She went with me on painting trips and heard me describe why I chose spots to paint. She watched Kristie and I plant flowers and trees and stop suddenly during hikes or trips for breathtaking views. She went camping often with our family.

And she listened over and over to the phrase “look how beautiful that is.”

So again, can artists sight be taught and nurtured – Yes, I think so!

How Can YOU Gain Artists Sight

What intentional things can be done to help us learn to see the beauty around us and the subtle 1 millimeter difference?

For our family, we get outside and enjoy nature often. We go camping, hiking, sitting out under the stars and taking walks together.

You might be thinking “So. How does that help? Lots of people do that and they don’t see the millimeter difference in trees or clouds.”

Yes, but do they discuss how the light reflects off the water at a certain angle depending on where they’re standing?

Those are the types of conversations and observations we make together as a family. We don’t just walk – we observe, analyze, and question.

Here’s a short clip showing an example of the conversations our family has during outings. This is from a trip Kristie and I took last fall.

Reflection of Light from Clouds on the Ocean Far Out at Sea. - YouTube

These are the types of conversations we have all the time with each other and with our kids. We are always learning new things.

The next time you go for a walk take time to really look at the trees and analyze them.

Study the shadow on the side of the trunk of a tree and notice how the edges get broken up by the values of things in the distance. When something is brighter behind the tree the shadow line looks stronger and has a harder edge, but when something in the distance is dark the shadow line seems to disappear, or the edge gets softer or lost altogether.

Or watch the way light bouncing off a metal sign reflects differently across water when it’s barely moving compared to ripples, waves, or rapids. You will see how that reflection gets longer and longer the choppier the water gets as it skips across the tops of the waves.

As you practice and your artist’s sight grows, new ideas, insights and understanding will begin to flow to you. The tiny nuances will stand out to you with such clarity and force you will wonder how you ever missed seeing them before.


It’s obvious that learning to see the millimeter differences and subtle nuances of color, value and shape will give us more information to draw from when we’re painting. Which in turn will make our paintings much more interesting to look at.

But couldn’t we simply use the internet to do the same thing? There are gazillions of photos from people around the world that we can look at.

Heck, with a little research we could probably find information about everything we’ve talked about here.

Is there really any advantage to seeing nature in person, or can we get the same understanding from photos?

That’s what we’ll be discussing next week!

You’re gonna love hearing about the fascinating sight experiment involving kittens and what that has to do with painting from life.

Waiting for Rain aspen trees 30×40 – oil painting by Bill Inman 2019

So, next week we’ll tie everything together and show how we can use artist’s sight to master oil painting.

The world needs to learn about artist’s sight. This earth is a magnificent place even if some of our brothers and sisters haven’t learned to see it yet.

Let’s spread the word and help the world to see just how beautiful it is!

Learn to Paint Your Own Masterpiece – On The House

At Master Oil Painting we know how passionate artists are about growing and bettering their craft, which is why we create and sell the world’s best art training and lessons. To help even more artists accelerate their growth we’ve taken a selection of our paid training and created a completely FREE art training library for everyone to enjoy!

Visit our free art training library here: https://www.masteroilpainting.com/free-art-training/

Find out why over 11,000 artists visit our free art training library every week, and why over 5,000 artists have shared it with their friends: https://www.masteroilpainting.com/free-art-training/

The post How to Acquire Artists Sight (Part 2 of 3) appeared first on Master Oil Painting.

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Do you think artists see the world differently?

Take a moment to consider how you see the world around you. It’s possible that you, like me, look in awe of the beauty everywhere, something I like to call the ‘artist’s sight’.

With the Voice of Rushing Waters 30×40 waterfall – oil painting by Bill Inman around 2001

These thoughts came to me while I was reading a book called Crashing Through. A fellow named Mike May lost his sight at the age of 3 from a chemical explosion. Later, they replaced one of his eyes with a glass one because of an infection.

May never let his blindness stop him from grabbing life by the horns though. He holds the world record, which he set in the late 80’s, for the fastest downhill blind speed skiing – reaching 65 miles per hour. He worked for the CIA for a couple of years and he started his own business creating GPS mobility devices for the sight impaired.

Mike May downhill skiing – he set a downhill blind speed skiing world record around 1988 at 65 MPH (source)

Then 43 years later in 2000, he had cornea stem cell surgery that restored his sight.

Sounds amazing right? May went from blindness to comparatively perfect vision almost overnight.

Researchers who tested May in 2003, and again in 2015, discovered that the eyes are a smaller part of the equation then they had expected. ‘Sight’ is primarily accomplished in the brain, which requires early childhood development.

20 years following his surgery May can see colors, motion, and some simple two-dimensional shapes, but he can’t distinguish 3-D forms, faces, objects or scenes from one another. He can’t tell the difference between a male and female face, and if he’s walking across a street and comes to a sidewalk that doesn’t have a significant shadow or difference in color, he can’t tell it’s there.

Recent research suggests that the part of the brain that processes 3-D recognition is not developed fully until we become adults. So, those who lose their sight at a young age never have a chance to develop that crucial part of the eye-brain equation – what scientists call experience-dependent plasticity.

The human eye

That means that our ability to clearly see all the nuances of life is made possible by our brain. Human eyes are like a camera’s lens – if that camera was sending the information to a super computer rather than a simple sensor.

20/20 Vision vs ‘Artists Sight’

You might be thinking – what on earth does any of that have to do with the arts?

I believe that the ability to recognize beauty in the world is a developed skill. But, unlike Mike May’s 3-D processing problems, I think it can be developed at any age.

The first Spring after Kristie and I moved to Muncie we came home from a lunch date and saw some neighbors out on their porch. We walked over to meet them.

We learned that our neighbors had lived in that same house for more than 30 years and were now retired.

We told them that we had just moved from the beautiful arid mountains of Colorado. We loved the Colorado landscape, but it was very different from the humid Spring plants of Indiana. Kristie and I were overwhelmed by the profusion of blossoming trees and flowers that surrounded us in our new home.

Kristie asked one of them “is it always this beautiful here in the Spring?”

Their reply – “well you know, I guess it is beautiful isn’t it. I never noticed before.”

Muncie Indiana in the Spring

Our neighbors’ eyes worked perfectly. They had the opportunity to see what Kristie and I were seeing. But somehow, over a span of 30 years, they failed to see the beauty around them.

So, I wonder – do artists see something others don’t or can’t see. And if so, is ‘artist’s sight’ something we are born with or can it be developed?

My hypothesis is that artists have a different view of the world around them and that it is something anyone can develop at any age. I think it’s our job as artists to help the world see how beautiful it is.

Would you choose Switzerland or Television?

One of Kristie’s family members married a wonderful lady from Switzerland. The bride’s grandfather kindly paid for the whole family to come visit Switzerland for 8 days to enjoy the wedding.

After 16 hours of flying we were driven to Hotel Zürichberg. None of us had been to Switzerland before, and as we got out of the vans that took us to the hotel, Kristie and I marveled at the postcard perfect scene in front of us.

Zürich, Switzerland

After dropping off our luggage, we went on a walk to explore our incredible new surroundings. It was an awe-inspiring experience, and one that Kristie and I will never forget. What was most surprising to us though, is that we found out it’s not uncommon for visitors when they first arrive, rather than head out to enjoy the scenery, to instead stay in their rooms, turn on the TV and watch a show in a language they don’t understand.

While there may be a host of good reasons others choose to rest instead of explore (like jet lag, anxiety, etc), the fact is that as an artist nothing could stop me from stepping outside as soon as possible. There was just too much beauty in the real world for me to spend time in front of a digital one.

Up on a hill overlooking Lake Zürich, we sat on a bench and watched hot air balloons drift gracefully across our view while accordion music played softly nearby.

We both looked at each other and asked, “are we in a movie scene?” It all seemed too perfect.

We felt that way the rest of the trip!

Lake Zürich from our room at Hotel Zürichberg

Some of you may be wondering what pushed Kristie, a cowgirl from a small town in Colorado, to immediately run outside and appreciate Switzerland’s beauty with me.

Kristie tells me that she sees the world differently since we got married. She had no real interest in paintings before meeting me and she didn’t ooh and aah over the landscape.

Now she calls me when she’s driving through town and tells me to run outside to see the clouds, moon or a setting sun. She has also become a master at critiquing paintings – finding the fatal flaws in my work when my brain develops blind spots.

She has developed an ‘artists sight’.

What about you? Would you choose to run outside and explore, or rest inside with a television?

Next week I’ll share some ways to gain, or further develop, an ‘artists sight’.

Learn to Paint Your Own Masterpiece – On The House

At Master Oil Painting we know how passionate artists are about growing and bettering their craft, which is why we create and sell the world’s best art training and lessons. To help even more artists accelerate their growth we’ve taken a selection of our paid training and created a completely FREE art training library for everyone to enjoy!

Visit our free art training library here: https://www.masteroilpainting.com/free-art-training/

Find out why over 11,000 artists visit our free art training library every week, and why over 5,000 artists have shared it with their friends: https://www.masteroilpainting.com/free-art-training/

The post Do You Have an Artists Sight? appeared first on Master Oil Painting.

Read for later

Articles marked as Favorite are saved for later viewing.
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.
Start your free month
Free Preview