Friday, June 29, 2012

Common Mistakes of the New Artist and How to Avoid Them; Part II

Disclaimer: As I said in Part I of this post, there are no hard and fast rules to art. At some point you may purposefully choose to commit one of these "mistakes" to achieve a specific goal. The important thing is that you choose to do do it, rather than doing one of these things because of lack of knowledge. Ok, let's carry on!

Mistake #6: Bad Composition. Composition is one of those details that can truly make or break a painting. You might have an absolutely beautiful subject that you've painted wonderfully, but if your composition is wrong it may leave the viewer unsettled or bored. Here are some examples of bad composition and why they are bad. 

Exhibit A:
What's happening here?

The image above almost achieves an L shaped composition, which can be used to sort of "frame" an object of interest. However, there is nothing of interest in that vast expanse of blue so the picture is just boring and a little confusing. To improve the composition I may add a red balloon or some other point of interest to that space of blue.

Exhibit B1:
The edges of the subject just barely
 fit inside the picture, appearing forced.
The above painting of an apple is not great composition for a couple of reasons. Problem #1 is that it feels forced. The apple comes right to the edges of the painting, making it appear that the artist (me) was trying too hard to get all of the subject into the frame. To fix this problem, I would either need to zoom in closer on my subject, or back up enough that there is comfortable space between the edges of the apple and the border of the picture. Problem #2 is that the stem is pointing out of the picture. However, it is far enough away from the edge of the picture that it's not a serious problem. The picture below shows a similar problem.

Exhibit B2:
The beetle is walking out of the picture, possibly
leading the viewer's interest out of the picture as well.
Exhibit B3:
This is a better composition than B3
because of the position of the subject.

Exhibit C1:
There is no clear center of interest, making the picture boring.

Again, there are a couple of problems with this picture. Problem #1 is that the center of interest is not clear. Problem # 2 has to do with color and balance of light and dark. Most of the colors in the picture are of the same value (level of light or dark). If we zoom in like so:

Exhibit C2:
It greatly improves the picture, however it would still benefit from greater contrast between lights and darks, and perhaps in the colors themselves, as well (for example, a purple butterfly instead of one that matches the flowers). 

Once again, these are only guidelines. Don't let rules dictate your art (or worse, intimidate you from creating art all together). If you feel that your pictures are missing the mark somehow, however, a look at these tips may help you put your finger on the problem. Remember, experience is the best teacher and with time you'll develop a sense of what works and what doesn't. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Common mistakes of the new artist and how to avoid them; Part I

I'm trying to provide plenty of visual examples, therefore this will be a 2 part post.
I've been looking at some of my older paintings and noticing the mistakes I made as a newbie artist. About 6 years ago when I started painting, I had no formal training. I just bought some acrylic paints and sorta went to town. Over the years I have gained some knowledge (both from mentors and formal training, and from experience) and the quality of my work (as well as my style) has WILDLY changed. I won't say that one style is better than the other, but my techniques have definitely improved. Below are some mistakes I made and that other rookie painters  tend to make and how to avoid or fix them.

Note: There are exceptions to every rule and you may choose at some point to commit one of these "mistakes" in order to achieve a specific effect.  However, the important word there is "choose." What I have listed here are mistakes people often unconsciously make when getting started painting. 

Mistakes to avoid:
Mistake #1: Making brush strokes go in all one direction. Check it out: 
Brush strokes should not go all one direction

Vary the directions of the strokes
It is especially tempting to make your strokes go in one direction when you're trying to fill a large space like an empty background. Varying your strokes looks much more natural. While we're on the subject of backgrounds...

Mistake # 2: Making the background an after-thought. Ideally you want to paint the background before the main subject. Especially on the last coat (or, of you work with one thick coat instead of many thin coats, you probably want to add to the edges of the items in the foreground of the picture at the end).  If you completely finish the subject and then try to paint the background, the edges will have a forced feel to them. I usually try to paint from back to front. For example, in the painting below, I painted the yellow and red marbles before the blue, since the blue one is in front.

Mistake #3: Finishing one area of the painting at a time. I know that you don't have endless time to paint and painting a layer over the entire painting at each sitting may not be doable. That's not what this is about. The mistake many new artists make is completely finishing one part of the picture before starting on another part. The result is usually a very disjointed final picture. Below are some examples of working on the whole painting rather than one bit at a time. These pictures show one of my paintings in progress.

See how the entire painting progresses from less detail to more detailed rather than filling in all the details of one part while neglecting the rest of the painting? If you find yourself getting too caught up in one little part of the picture, walk away for a few minutes and view it from a distance as a whole.

Mistake #4: Not using a reference or model (if you're doing a representational painting rather than a non-representational abstract).

Mistake #5: Painting what you think you should see instead of what you actually see.

Mistakes #4 and #5 go hand in hand. Say you're painting a picture of an apple. Your brain will probably say, "I know what an apple looks like," so you either attempt to paint without an apple as a model, or you don't look at your model and you paint a roundish thing with a stem. Even if your goal is not realism, having the subject in front of you and truly looking at the qualities of the model will improve and vitalize your picture. Try to turn off that little voice in your head that applies symbols to objects (example: "Apples are round, doors are rectangles, etc."). If you're working from a photograph rather than from life, it might help to turn the picture (and your painting) upside down so that it is less recognizable to your brain. If something seems off with your picture and you can't figure out what it is, it helps to hold the painting (and reference photo, if using) up to a mirror. By reversing the image, you can often see what is and isn't working.

Stay tuned for part II of this post! Are you having any painting problems that you'd like me to address? I love hearing from you!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Golden Girls rock

I have this sort of high-minded belief that you shouldn't buy art to fit a particular space or because the color-theme matches your couch. It seems like if you only obtain things you love, they all seem to work together somehow. However, I've amended this creed somewhat and have come to realize that sometimes the perfect piece for a room can make the entire room a work of art. 

This is my bathroom: 

Note the pink tile. It's not 50's bubblegum pink. It's more of an 80's mauve. The walls were previously a pinkish beige, which was fine with the previous owner's decor, but didn't really suit us.  When it came time to paint, let me tell you, we struggled to find a paint color that we liked with the mauve that didn't make it look like it belonged on the set of Golden Girls (click on the link to see a blogger who was totally inspired by the idea of modernizing the Golden Girls' style). Come to think of it, their couch was about the same color as these tiles. 

Then, I found these:

and inspiration struck. I would do a painting of river rocks for the bathroom, bringing in the pinkish color of the tile and paint the walls a beautiful river rock greenish grey! Perfect. So and painted the walls greenish grey, and I painted this:
And it sold before I even got to try it out in my own home! Not that I'm complaining at all. It sold to Energen, Birmingham's Natural Gas corporation, for their collection of Alabama artists.  I've painted a couple of smaller ones, too, but none have made it to their pre-conceived spot. Again, not complaining! So, I started a new one. I gave you a sneak preview of it here. Here it is now:
Stay tuned for more progress. 
The moral of this story? Inspiration can come from anywhere. Even pink tiles.
How about all of you out there in computer land. Ever been inspired by anything totally weird and random (a la doorknobs and faucets)? Tell me about it! Send me pictures and let me know if you would like me to share them on this blog. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Stu Stu Studio

Yes, the subject was a Phil Collins reference. Sorry. I think I've gotten a little loopy being pretty much housebound with a sick baby (she's much much better, by the way). In addition making me loopy and forcing me to make bad '80's music puns, being home so much lately has made me practically wild to fix things up around the house. Namely- my studio. Check out my Pinterest page for studios I'm really coveting. See you over there!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Sick baby :-(

Hi all! Sorry it's been so long since I updated. I've had a sick baby. She's been sick for a couple of weeks now with a rash and fever. Thankfully, though, she's on the upswing, so I promise I will be back soon!
In the meantime check out my friend Dariana Dervis's etsy shop. She makes beautiful collages and collage jewelry.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Everyday beauty

I wrote a couple of posts ago about doing little things to improve your state of mind and the beauty of your surroundings, so I thought I'd share a few pics of my most recent good-mood inducing project. Herb basket!

And having it right by the door means I (hopefully) won't forget to water it! 

Friday, June 1, 2012

...and the art of life

I live in an older house. Not so much older in the "charming details" sense, but older in the "this house has had several owners and every one of them has done things differently," sense. We're slowly (very slowly) but surely adding touches and changing things to make it our own. It's amazing how satisfying the tiniest changes can be! So since this blog is not only about "A Life of Art," but also, "The Art of Life," I've decided to share a few little glimpses into our home. 
Perhaps my favorite, shall we say quirk, about our house was the florescent office light on the bedroom ceiling. 
Forgive the awkwardness of this photo. I took this before we even bought the house and way before I had this blog. What you can't see in the photo is that there is another, regular light fixture about 10" away from this one. Kinda random, huh? So, we took the florescent light down and this is what we found-
Popcorn ceiling under that one strip of the ceiling. Wild! I'm sorry to admit we actually went to sleep staring at this view for the better part of a year thinking that removing the popcorn was going to be a HUGE deal. Luckily, we were wrong! All it took was a spray bottle of vinegar and warm water, some plastic sheeting to protect the floor, and a rag. Seriously! It's messy, but easy. I hear it's not always this easy to remove popcorn (sometimes called acoustic) ceilings, so we really lucked out. My father-in-law came to help us with some home improvement projects and at the end of a couple of days we had this:
A fresh paint job, new light fixture and a beautifully smooth ceiling. You can't even tell there was ever popcorn there. It makes me happy every time I go into our room. I swear I even have sweeter dreams. Next step- crown molding!

What have y'all crossed off your to-do list? Any tiny changes that have made a big difference in your state-of-mind?