Thursday, November 20, 2014

Elements & Principles of Design

I recently ran a workshop for the Foxboro Art Association in Massachusetts on using the elements and principles of design in landscape painting. I explained and illustrated the use of the elements and principles with a digital slide presentation followed by a painting demonstration. Making use of the elements and principles of design allows the painting to become more than just the sum of its parts.

This is the stuff that makes up a painting. Every painting needs to be composed. Are you a painter who spends time thinking about the principles of design to best compose your paintings or do you more or less wing it and go with what looks good? I firmly believe that a lot of good paintings can be made stronger with a little more thought given to the arrangement of the composition. By the way, I am completely guilty of just winging it sometimes!

Edgar Payne wrote in his book, Composition For The Outdoor Painter; that an artist should 'mix brains with paint.' His examples of different compositional armatures in the book are outstanding and clearly demonstrate a thinker behind the brush. His use of these armatures within his paintings make his work stand out above a lot of landscape work. When a painter thinks about these compositional ideas along with the principles of design, they have a really good shot of simplifying their subject matter to the essentials and can begin painting the relationships of objects, along with relationships of value and color that add strength and unity to the painting. In other words, they PAINT a painting rather than copy or render things. Making good use of the elements and principles of design allows the painting to become more than just the sum of its parts. By utilizing the principles of design when organizing a painting, it allows the artist to still explain the big truths about nature but it also allows the artist to use his or her inventiveness in the final product.

In the coming year, I plan on making the use of these elements and principles of design a focus in my weekly painting classes and also in my plein air workshops. I'm in the process of also making it available as an online class.


Below is a very quick sketch done in class showing an example of working from a photo reference and strengthening the design using the elements and principles. I rearranged shapes, changed sizes and pushed the compositional movement towards a radial design with a strong diagonal movement.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Day 11-19 Fleeting Glimpses & Memories

This project still fascinates me. I realized about half way through the 30 day project that trying to crank out a painting each day just to meet my own self imposed deadline was rather senseless. My normal busy schedule of classes and deadlines for other paintings etc; was already a rather full plate. I started to find myself feeling anxious to get a painting completed just for the sake of getting it posted. After a couple days of real bombs (which were scraped completely) and other obligations that got in my way, I decided that It was alright to change my strategy and I made it a new personal goal to complete the 30 paintings as time allowed for it. I wanted to learn and gain new ideas from doing the project. Spending time thinking about what I was trying to capture in each painting from my color notes and photo references made the most logical sense. I tend to be very direct with my painting procedure, but I am a thinker. I think about a painting a lot before I ever touch brush to canvas. 

I personally wish that there were more painters in this world who spent  more time thinking about what they are trying to say in a painting along with giving more thought to composition, color, type of light etc instead of just copying everything before them. Or worse, and we see it a lot; painters who essentially just copy themselves over and over and over again. I've found myself doing it at times. It's actually rather easy to fool ourselves into believing that we are seeing things with fresh new eyes and approaching each painting with an emotional investment, when actually we are just on auto pilot. We reach for the same green, we make the same marks, the trees have to look a certain way, water is done like this etc etc. We start to paint from habit instead of painting from instinct and emotion. What results are formulaic paintings or paintings that look like everybody else. There are a lot of those paintings floating around. This is not a rant but an observation. 

For me personally, when I find that I am not emotionally invested in a painting, I take a step back to ask myself why. The painting experience is about having a conversation with my subject matter and therefore, expressing something that might not be readily seen in the painting but felt. Paintings that evoke an emotion from the viewer are the paintings that matter. Without that connection, a painter is just recording things on a canvas. Robert Henri said that the world doesn't need another 'pretty' picture and is he ever right. 

The Fleeting Glimpses & Memory project has made me have to think harder back in the studio about that emotional connection that I felt looking at the subject. Even color notations that I made on location took on a whole different meaning back in the studio. The notes gave me a starting point, but the actual color mixes that eventually were applied to the canvas were more about trying to recall the feeling of the color and were never exactly as they had been written down. I think all good paintings tend to evoke an impression or sense of place beyond just stating the obvious. Wouldn't it be an amazing feat if a painter could thoroughly intoxicate the viewers senses with this intangible quality.

Here are photos of paintings 11 through 19. The images are also posted on my Facebook page
and also on my Dailypaintworks gallery page,david&mode=search

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

'Fleeting Glimpses & Memories' Painting Project. Days 7-10!

'Fleeting Glimpses & Memories' Painting Project

Days 7, 8, 9 and 10

If there is one thing I've learned doing this painting project, is that my schedule is extremely full and fitting an extra painting into my day for thirty days in a row is just not going to happen easily. I'm enjoying the project immensely and have decided to get my thirty paintings completed as my days allow. (This will keep me from becoming a nut case!) :) 

It's been interesting looking at night scenes at all different hours. The night sky is so vastly different from one night to the next. Everything becomes a factor; the time, the immediate weather and the phase of the moon. It makes perfect logical sense, but it has never been so obvious until I really started looking and thinking about it. Every time I write down some notes about color and value, I am surprised by the various combinations I am seeing. It seems endless. At times it is strikingly different and yet so very subtle.

As I continue with the project, the weather is also changing. We are losing all the snow and that is going to have me looking at different subject matter etc. I'm excited about some ideas that I have and as the weather warms up and the days get longer, I am going to try to do some of these on location. The knowledge that I am gleaning from looking and trying to memorize the evening light is opening up my mind to thinking about color in new ways.

I'm still posting the painting images here and on FaceBook. You can click on the Daily Paintworks widget located in the right column of this blog to be taken to my gallery of all the paintings being done for this project on the daily paintworks website.

Day 7 - 'Ice Melt'   9x12
Day 8 - 'Ten P.M.'   9x12
Day 9 - 'Burning The Midnight Oil'   9x12
Day 10 - 'Night Lights'   9x12

Monday, March 10, 2014

Day 6 - Fleeting Glimpses & Memories

Day 6 - Fleeting Glimpses & Memories

Today's painting took three attempts. I wasn't able to wrap my mind around what I was after and how to get it onto canvas. In my second attempt, I was close to being on track but not quite. I scraped the paint off again and then started to build paint on top of the stained image. I finally realized where I had gone wrong and it just came together.

If I can't see it with my mind's eye, the painting is never going to turn out right. This is true for anybody that paints. The idea of slinging paint in hopes that by some stroke of luck it will evolve into a finished piece, is just some wishful thinking. Essentially though, that is precisely what I was doing with today's first two attempts. My color idea was off and so was my value plan. I was tired from a long weekend and that can also play a part, but I've long ago figured out how to stay on task when I am tired. 

What solved the dilemma for me, was scraping down and walking away for a little while. I made some coffee and played my guitar. Twenty minutes later, I took a good hard look and thought about my original plan and what I had seen while out in the field. I hadn't taken any notes and my photo reference was not in any way going to be of help except for the drawing.

It pays to stick with a painting sometimes and try to work it out. In the end, I was really happy with this piece. Can anyone guess how I came up with the name?

See you tomorrow!

'Ain't It Just Like A Friend Of Mine'   9x12

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Day 5 - Fleeting Glimpses & Memories

For today's painting 'Waning Cresent' 9x12, I tried to capture a sense of moonlight and tried to go a bit higher key with it then I remembered seeing. This farmhouse is always pretty lit up at night and there is almost always work being done in the barn. Because of that, the place lends itself to being the subject of a night painting and i may try to do this one again sometime during the course of the project. Thanks for looking.

'Waning Crescent' 9x12

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Day 4 - Fleeting Glimpses & Memories

Today was one of those long days with lots going on in the studio. My painting is from a place in my hometown of Woodstock and I was after the feeling and color of the evenings afterglow. I was attracted to the pink glow in the sky and the muted blue green building. The cool yellow green light in the window was really there and just seemed to complete the idea. I tried to give the painting a bit more light then what I remembered and was sure to include some sense of ground shadows. Without them the design falls flat. The painting, 'Afterglow' was completed in just under 3 hours. I was surprised at how much time I had to spend  in order to get the right balance of subtle color vibration to make the painting work. The building was painted 3 times before I got something close to what I remembered seeing.

'Afterglow' 9x12 

Day 2 - Fleeting Glimpses & Memories

Last night While Pam and I were driving home late, I was looking at a scene that reminded me of one of my favorite places to paint. This particular spot has changed considerably over the last two years. A couple of winters ago, when we were inundated with one nor'easter after another, the barn collapsed under the weight of all the heavy snow. It's a pile of rubble now, but I couldn't help but think about how this place would look painted with last nights evening sky before all the calamity. A few sketches later along with some rummaging through of old photo references, I came up with today's studio painting.

It's pretty much an invented idea. While looking the sky last night, I was aware of how the stars sparkled and the sky glowed. The landscape by comparison seemed desolate and muted. I went with that and created this painting called 'March Evening'.

'March Evening' 9x12

Friday, March 7, 2014

Day 3 - Fleeting Glimpses & Memories

Today's painting, 'Winter Twilight' is of a place I go by all the time and I've painted it plein air a few times over the years. My first time painting it was with my dear friend and fellow painter, Charlie Parsons who passed away a few years ago. I am the kind of plein air painter who can sometimes drive by a perfectly good painting spot a whole bunch of times without stopping to paint. I think that I paint some of these locations in my mind for years before I finally get around to actually stopping and setting up my easel. Charlie was the kind of guy who wanted to stop everywhere and anywhere to paint and on this particular day he mentioned this location and we just drove there and got the job done. Charlie would drive up from Marion MA to Woodstock on a whim sometimes to paint and stay at his little fishing cabin in Eastford. He grew up in Woodstock and he had a real connection to the place and seemed to know just about everybody. I always enjoyed his company, although family obligations and workshop travels kept me from getting out there to paint with him as much as I would have liked.

When Pam and I drive home from the studio we usually don't pass this spot because I take shortcuts to make the drive shorter. This time I drove the main road and drove right by this, as the view heading home is not the 'painting' view. As we went by, I thought about about Charlie and I happened to glance in my mirror and caught a sliver of the early night sky. My heart stopped for a second and I turned around to have a better look and to jot down some notes.

The studio painting the next morning started out very disjointed and I almost scraped it. Then something clicked and I realized the landscape and sky were not in agreement with each other. In the next five minutes the painting just came together and it felt really good. 

Here is the painting. I hope you like it. More tomorrow! 

'Winter Twilight' 9x12

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Fleeting Glimpses & Memories

I'm excited to start the 'Fleeting Glimpses & Memories' project! This is an adventure that has been in the back of my mind for quite some time. The idea of this project is to paint one 9 x12 each day for 30 days, of something that I've seen on my commute to or from my painting studio. I'm always traveling to the studio early in the morning and coming back around the time the sun is setting or after. I always see exciting things that I wish I could paint. They are fleeting moments and trying to paint them on location isn't really practical.
Night painting for me seems to affect my eyes. It's hard to judge color and the values are hard to control. I like the idea of working to recreate something in the studio from something that caught my eye for a moment in time. These paintings will be an exploration and there will be some inventing going on. I see it as a way to grow. I see it this way. If an artist works plein air, his skills as a plein air painter will grow. The same thing holds true for memory work. We get better at things we practice at! I'm even allowing you to watch me fumble and hopefully do some cool things with the landscapes that I will be painitng.

I really want to develop my ability to paint from memory, so this is the perfect way to do that. Using some rapid sketches to think about big shapes, some notes that I jot down about color and a reference photo to aid in the compositional plan, I will then dive into recreating what I saw and felt about the subject.

I'm fascinated about painting at twilight, the early or late evening, or even in moonlight. Sunrise is also high on my list of special times to connect with the landscape. More times than not, when it comes to sunrise paintings, I find myself standing in awe of what God can do with a morning and I spend more time looking than I do actually painting the view, but maybe this project will break that.

I know that I plan to take a hard look at intersections at night with traffic lights at some point during these 30 days as I am completely flabbergasted with the way the red, yellow and green changes in a traffic light influence the colors around it. There are many other thoughts going around in my mind and I am just going to take it one day at a time and see what inspires me as I go.

The paintings will all be 9x12's and sold unframed for $400 dollars. The paintings will be shipped at the end of the thirty day painting event. There is a $ 25.00 fee to cover shipping and handling. The paintings can be seen here; on FaceBook and also in Daily Paintworks, where they can be purchased.  

Click on the Daily Paintworks widget on my sidebar to be taken to the site.

It's my sincere hope that someone will be inspired by this project enough to want to attempt their hand at it and also that my paintings will touch someone enough, that they want to own it.

TODAY I painted a sunset (from the previous evening) of a stand of trees and a field in snow. It was exciting to try to reconnect with the scene in my mind and to just let the painting do its thing. In this one, I was intrigued by the combinations of muted yellow and yellow oranges against the gray purple snow

 More tomorrow!

'Last Light'  9x12 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Making Panels

Many students and fellow artists ask me for info on how I make my panels. Today was a panel making day, so I decided to post something to explain my process.

I like 359 alkyd primed linen from Owners, Mary Rawle and her husband Chuck are the nicest people you could ever buy linen from. Sometimes I use some oil primed Italian linen from the Italian art store. It really depends on what becomes available when I need more linen. I like gator board and I buy it from a place in Connecticut called They are extremely prompt and their website is easy to navigate. I use the natural kraft wrap gator board. Because I am in a studio in an old mill that has a loading dock, it's easy to buy the board one or two pallets at a time. The sheets come 15 to a pallet and they are each 4 by 8 feet. Usually there are a few other artists going in on the purchase and it's a nice way to get it in quantity and then divide it up. Don't worry, they also sell different sizes, 10 to a box and you can order a box of 30 by 40 inch gator board and still have it delivered by UPS.

When I decide to make linen panels, I choose a day and I try to make all I can in a day. I use a sheet rock T square and a utility knife to cut the big sheets of gator board. I prefer to cut them to different size panels that I use on a regular basis. In this way, I am making a lot of different sizes, but I might also have some left that I can make as I need them. I cut up my linen into the sizes that I use regularly too. Generally, I add about a quarter of an inch to each side, in order to have a bit of excess that I can trim off as I make the boards. This is important, especially when I am making larger panels.

The glue I use to mount the linen to the board is a fabric adhesive. I buy it from United Manufacturers Supply Company. If you search for fabric adhesive on their website, it will come right up. I buy it in the quart size and also in half gallons. The quart size has a nice dispenser tip and therefore is useful for applying it to the gator board.

I apply the glue by squeezing it out of the bottle onto the gator board in a circular motion. You don't need tons of it, but you need enough to get the job done. Practice makes perfect. You will get a feel for it right away. The adhesive will tack up fairly quickly so once I apply it, I quickly spread it around. I just use an old bristle brush that I cut down slightly so that it is a bit stiffer for moving the adhesive. The adhesive looks somewhat like Elmer's glue but it isn't. This glue hold great, but can also be reactivated by heat which means that if it ever became necessary to remove the painting to adhere it to another panel, it can be done. It is a PH Neutral adhesive and it's completely archival.

Once I spread the adhesive around, I check that I got glue up to all the edges and then I place my linen on it and I use an old wooden ruler to press down on the panel from the middle to the edges to make sure it lays flat. I am careful not to press so hard that I squeeze all the glue out at the edges. If this happens, I am pressing too hard or have way too much glue on the panel.

Then I flip the panel over, and using my utility knife, I trim off the excess canvas. If I don't do this while the glue is wet, I will get a wavy buckle effect along the edge of the panel. It has something to do with the glue drying, causing slight shrinkage. Then I place it on a flat surface and put something on top of it to keep it flat. It doesn't have to be real heavy. I've gotten to the point that I put it under my cutting mat and place a book on top and it's ready to paint on in about 10-15 minutes.

I want to point out that I can make a 30 x 40 painting panel using this method and I can do it a heck of a lot faster than stretching a canvas. I have gone as big as 40 x 60. Making your own panels might use up some painting time, but I get satisfaction in constructing my own panels and I can make them for half of what it costs to buy them already made. In my book, every artist should concern themselves with cutting costs where possible. It's also a nice project to do with another fellow artist. One rainy spring, I made panels for 5 consecutive days with a good painting friend and by the end, we both had put together enough panels to last us for more than a year! I am providing a link here to a very simple YouTube video which shows the process.

In my next post, I will be starting a new project.

On my 30 minute drive to the studio each day, I see early morning scenes that would make great paintings, but the effects are fleeting. Then on my drive back home, the late afternoon light turns to twilight and again the effect is magical, but I see just a fleeting glimpse. It's just a moment in time. I would like to commit these to memory and paint one every day for 30 days beginning on Tuesday, March 4th. I will post these on this blog with a link to Daily Paint Works, where they will be available for purchase online for $400. Each painting will be either a 9"x12" or an 8"x10"  I hope you will have a look!