Category Archives: Blog

Ten thoughts about the creative process

1. Be proactive. Negative thoughts get in the way of the brain waves to the brush or pen.
2. Work to a daily schedule i.e., four hours a day five days a week. A routine allows for a rhythm and that’s good for creating. Gives time for yard work.
3. Shut out distractions, take deep breaths, slow down, and focus. Shut off the talking and video devices! Mozart or some cool jazz is ok though.
4. Work a number of pieces in rotation so that you don’t get stale looking at the same work day after day. “I can’t see the forest for the trees” syndrome can set in.
5. Take time to study. Be informed with blogs, magazines, and books. The older we get the less we know, right?
6. Clean your brushes/pens and leave your studio ready for the next day. It’s like crawling into a bed that has clean sheets. Ahhhhhh!
7. Take time off. Working day after day without a break can cause brain damage. My best work sometimes happens after a 72 hour break. Try it you’ll like it!
8. Surround yourself with supportive people and stay positive. If I had a dollar for every person that told me I couldn’t do something I’d be rich. The naysayers can go nay!
9. Set aside time each week to work on marketing. Art work is a commodity just like any other product. Most laypeople do not know how we make sausage. We have to help them understand it takes some luck, but mostly knowledge, hard work, and lots of patience.
10. Create art because you enjoy it. As an illustrator there were deadlines I had to meet and after a while the treadmill got very, very, old. Now I paint for the pure joy of it. I often tell my wife,” The time flies when I’m in front of my easel, but think of it this way…. It’s keeping me out of the bars!” She likes that!

Paint on!

Acrylics vs Oils-Which is better?

I began my career as an illustrator so acrylic paints and ink were the norm for the work. Slow drying times are not desired especially when you have a deadline to meet. With acrylics you can paint on anything….. paper, card, canvas, boards, whatever you have on hand. Then go wash your hands with soap and water. No messy oil based spirits to deal with.

There is no corrosive or toxic nature with acrylics as with oils. Oils have a linseed oil base that will “Rot” an ill prepared board or canvas. Preparing a canvas or a board for oils is therefore more involved. Then there are the fumes from the paints, turpentine, and varnish. This means ventilation is required….especially during winter.

Acrylics do dry quickly but the dry time can be slowed by misting with water and use of a slow dry medium. If you like heavy impasto strokes add acrylic gel. Most important  store your paints in something like a Masterson Stay Wet palette. Paints can stay wet for as much as a week in one of these boxes.

It takes time to master but one can paint like an oil painter with acrylics. I usually paint in thin layers and dry each with a hair dryer to keep the painting session going. You cannot do this with oils. Oil paint layers usually need 24 hours to cure to be dry to the touch.

More and more artists are painting with acrylics. But, the gold standard which is painting with oils is still alive and well, especially for portrait painting due to the longer blending properties of oils. I paint in oils from time to time and the quality of my work remains high with either medium. I just know oils are a bit more expensive and will take longer to dry so I compensate for that.

Acrylics are the way to go if you are just learning to paint and don’t want to spend a lot of money until you make the commitment. The painting process of acrylics and oils are similar but acrylics are easier for the beginner to handle. Both mediums are great ways to show your talents. Paint on!


Denali photograph

My Denali Painting

As artists, it’s easy to paint strictly from a photograph and we look to get as close to the photo as we can. If we see a rock, we’ve got to paint all the cracks in it and as many blades of grass as we can pick out. We then realize that brushes aren’t made small enough and we spend lots of time nose to nose with the canvas or paper.
Why paint something that looks like a photograph? If it’s a photo you want…use a camera instead!
Painting is more than replicating photographs.   Being a painter is about interpreting the world in your manner and your style.
We should never let the reference override our vision. A photo can dictate the details and it’s a safe method for many artists. But, letting the photo drive our artistic bus means we don’t have to think artistically at all.  The hues, the values and the composition are all there for the taking. Most of the time they are all wrong, but we don’t mind because we think we have followed the photograph to a “T”.
Professional artists use a photograph only as a reference and rely more on their knowledge and years of experience to produce outstanding results.
Before they start, they take charge of the elements. If there are distracting things in the photo, they leave them out or change them.  They move things around so the composition is more balanced – as artists we are allowed to do this. I have never seen a photograph of any subject that is perfect artistic wise….it doesn’t exist because nature is random and messy….and then there are over and under exposures.
Atmospherics are important. See those far away objects that look dark and sharp in the photo? Make them lighter, bluer, and not as sharp  – your painting will begin to have some depth. Colors in the fore ground should be warmer.
Change the sky, add objects from other photos, leave out trees, buildings, and paint  grass as a mass instead of individual blades.
Most likely your finished painting won’t look like the reference photo at all.  But, it will appear more interesting and it’s your creation.
Photo caption: There are many ways Mt. Denali in Alaska can be photographed. I modified the photo and added a foreground with fireweed. And then a lone tree as a focal point to represent the solitude of permafrost country.