Thursday, February 5, 2009

Brushes - Oil Painting

Some years ago I attended a master class in portrait painting given by an excellent artist who had painted many famous and wealthy people. She was nearly 80 years old at that time and had been a working artist since her early twenties.
A class member asked her about the oil painting brushes she would recommend to us. At this moment she became very agitated and told us her experience with 'new' brushes. 'I will buy new brushes and then begin to use one and it is just worthless. I get so mad I just break it over my knee and throw it on the floor of my studio.'
I can relate. I own many brushes and there have been some that I love at first use which do not hold up. And I know how to care for them. Many simply do not hold their shape, even with the careful dressing I do with my fingers after cleaning them with non-detergent soap. One artist whose blog I have read will actually clip the brush so that its shape is pressed with stiff paper overnight. That didn't used to be necessary.
What can one do? I have sent disappointing brushes recently purchased back to the manufacturer (a very old and well known company) and they replaced them and also told me that the brushes I returned were, in fact, defective. They also sent me some other goodies I could use in my studio. But they did respond and so if you can take the time, don't break your new brush over your knee, return it. I think it is important to speak up and get the excellence we need to ply our craft!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

See the colors of life!

Most color in the world is really pretty neutral. Lots of
greys and browns. If we took a percentage of how much
color we see that is really pure and bright, it would probably
be quite small.
Every artist is attracted to color. And certainly most people
are. Perhaps that is because it is such a small percentage of
all that is out there. Consider roads, winter landscapes, most
house exteriors, and the sky on an overcast day. These are
just a few examples of vast stretches of space that are not
brightly colored.
So look for the pops of color, but know that when you make a
piece of artwork, the neutral colors are what set off the purity
of a strong spot of red, yellow, blue, etc. If it weren't for the
neutrals, would we notice and appreciate pure color so much?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Palettes for oil painters

There are basically two choices of location for a palette: one you hold as in this photograph of one of my students at work, or on a taboret or table top. While it is certainly a matter of personal preference, there are reasons for having one that you hold. When an artist is new at his craft, he will tend not to stand back and take a look at what he has got going on the easel. And so when you have a palette in your hand, you are not so tied to the table next to your easel and can move back and forth, painting a bit, then stepping back and taking a look. Long handles on oil painting brushes are also helpful in getting a bit of distance on what you are doing IF you hold it the right way and don't 'choke' the brush up too close to the bristles.
I like using a table next to where I work and as I get older it is more comfortable than using a palette resting on my arm with fingers gripping the hole. But try out both and see what you like.