Saturday, 5 April 2014

Create Abstract Art from Everyday Objects: the Corkscrew by Keith Busby

Ideas for abstract art can be found in the most unexpected places. Everyday objects stripped bare will reveal weird and bizarre visual aspects for art exploration. The point is the creative process by which the artwork was conceived. The subject of this article is this abstract painting in acrylics derived from a corkscrew by Keith Busby.

Ideas on How to Create Art from Objects

I Wish They'd Put a Cork in It by Keith Busby
The artist has taken the corkscrew and processed the image until the object is almost unrecognizable, yet reveals something of itself. The viewer may not necessarily realize this swirling, almost psychedelic imagery is a corkscrew, but this is not the point. By distilling this image, the artist has stripped apart the object and created a new way of seeing it.

Abstract Painting of a Corkscrew

The object was originally grey, yet has revealed an array of colors and patterns by stripping apart the chromatic components. The viewer may ask what the painting represents, feeling that the curious patterns are not random, but have meaning. The image is derived from something.

In order to create this piece of artwork, the original image went through several processes, which are as follows:
  • The corkscrew was photographed against a blank background.
  • The background was then cleaned by using Paint (other image software can do this)
  • Paintshop Pro was used to reduce the colours to sixteen. This separates out the grey into its constituent colors.
  • The image then went through an artistic effect found on the programme. This was ‘enamel’ and then ‘topography’.
  • The image was then twisted via a distortion effect.
  • The resultant image was printed.
Creating Abstract Art

The artist could have used other effects to create a different result. Doing so can create weird and unexpected effects. The possibilities are endless. Once the image was created, the artist lightly sketched the object onto primed hardboard (or MDF) which had been smoothed with fine glasspaper. Flat colors were applied via acrylic paint. As acrylics dry quite quickly, the artist applied the paint in stages and in layers. There are roughly three layers of paint, which was applied via wide, soft brushes, but fine sables for the detail.

Art Pigments Used for Abstract Painting

To create, opaque blocks of color, the pigments weren’t mixed, but applied straight from the tube. Titanium white, black, cobalt blue, cadmium yellow (medium), cadmium orange. pyrrole red and Payne’s grey were used. The paint was applied in stages to create an even opaque finish.

How to Create Abstract Art from Simple Objects

This abstract painting in acrylics by Keith Busby has been sourced from an everyday object, in this case, a corkscrew. Rather than copy the subject matter faithfully, the artist has taken the image and processed it through various stages to create a new image entirely.  Here we can see qualities within the object not realized from an orthodox approach. Stripped apart, the humble corkscrew has revealed an alternative self that may cause the viewer to pause, take a second look and ask questions.

Read how to enter your painting for an evaluation or critique on this blog.
And then submit your painting via my Oil Painting Medic Facebook page.

Friday, 4 April 2014

My Artist Inspiration has Dried Up: How do I Get More Creative?

The artist may take pride in perfecting an oil painting, finding ever better ways of applying detail or smoothing glazes. Taking risks in art may get lost in the pursuit of technical perfection. Without realizing, the artist may become complacent in one subject area or one approach to oil painting. What can the artist do to find new ways of expression?

Chagall's I and the Village (left) Munch's The Scream (right) 
Perfect Detail on Animal Painting, Plants and Skies

Exploring art techniques may yield one particular approach the artist favors, often high detail and smooth paint application. In a pursuit for super realism, the artist may lose sight of what creativity means, as well as artistic expression. The result is the same approach, but with ever more technical perfection. Common favored artistic pursuits are:
  • Expressing every fur on an animal, such as dogs, cats, squirrels, foxes or other farm animals. The viewer may admire the approach, saying, ‘you could almost stroke the fur!’
  • Sweeping landscape such as mountain peaks, canyons and valleys by the use of smooth paint layers.
  • Seascapes exhibiting sea spray, billowing clouds and rugged cliffs.
  • Large sweeping  with puffy clouds with smooth blues between.
  • Dramatic sunsets.skies
  • Intricate studies of still life, such as fruit and flowers that have an illustrated feel
  • Draughtsman-like rendition of buildings.
  • A pursuit of photographic realism.
Such areas of exploration are great for the artist but pose the risk of taking over the artist portfolio. The artist may be reluctant to try a different technique or subject matter in a fear of failure. The sense of satisfaction gets too closely associated with this one subject area and approach. The artist could wind up being labeled as ‘the one who is really good at painting bricks on houses, or pink clouds on sunsets.’ As will be seen, great tenacity in painting is not the same as creative art.

Tips for Artistic Growth

Malevich's Black Square (left) Kandinsky's On White II (right)
Few experiences can inject a creative breath of fresh air as visiting a city art gallery. National and international artists with diverse approaches will cause the viewer to ask questions about his/her current approach. Expressionism, abstract art, modernism and conceptual art will certainly bring an emotional response, whether intense dislike, bewilderment, disconcertion or similar. 

A good shakeup, I believe, is good for the artist, as experiencing the boundaries of artistic expression cannot fail to create a broader view. Without realizing, the artist will view their current work with a different perspective.

To this end, the mages shown are:
Credits: Edvard Munch: The Scream (1893) National Gallery, Oslo
Wassily Kandinsky: On White II (1923) Gallery: Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France
Marc Chagall: I and the Village (1911) Museum of Modern Art, New York
Malevich: Black Square (1915) Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Learning to Take Risks in Art

Gleaning art books is another way of finding new approaches to art. Beholding Abstract Expressionism, Cubism, Bauhaus, Vorticism, Primitive Art, Futurism, Surrealism, Dadaism, Op Art, Pop Art, Minimalism and art installations will make the domestic artist ask himself, why can’t I get away with this? Agonizing over every strand of canine fur or brick on a building will suddenly seem less vital.

Overview of Art Techniques in Art

Summit by Rachel Shirley
Trying out different oil painting techniques is another way of broadening the creative reach. Impasto, scumbling, pointillism, etching, dripping, scratching, smudging and dabbing can be explored as well as glazing and detail. Combining several techniques in one oil painting will bring out contrasting elements. Trying out different mediums to the norm could result in unexpected effects. In my painting, Summit, I heightened color contrasts between sunlight and shadow to create a shimmering effect.

Odd Subject Matter for Art

Experimenting with subject matter not accustomed to is an exciting way of pushing out the boundaries. A habitual landscape artist could benefit from trying out a still life for a change. A habitual still life artist could combine subject matter not normally seen together, such as a glass tankard next to a Mickey Mouse clock. Try odd settings or viewpoints. Placing objects not normally seen together could result in  a quirky still life.

Creative Ideas for Art

The artist feeling within a creative rut would benefit from visiting a city art gallery to see how the great artists have tackled their subject area. The first time visitor may come away thinking, how can they get away with this? Maybe I can try something like that. The artist cannot help but take a fresh view on their usual practice. Trying out different art techniques and subject matter not used to are other ways of pushing out the creative boundaries.

Great City Art Galleries to Visit

The following city art galleries are recommended for the artist who may find the art of the village hall too insular. Many are not listed here.

UK Art Galleries: The Tate, the Tate Modern, Tate Britain; National Portrait Gallery; the Royal Academy of Arts; Saatchi Gallery (all in London) or the Walker Gallery or the Tate Liverpool; Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, the Riverside Museum, Glasgow
US Art Galleries: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington; Art institute of Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art; National Portrait Museum, Washington, Hirshhorn Museum, Washington
European Art Galleries: The Louvre in Paris; Van Gough Museum, Amsterdam; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Museu Picasso, Barcelona; Guggenheim, Bilbao; Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome;  Istanbul Modern, Istanbul; The State Hermitage, St Petersburg
Asia & Oceania Art Galleries: National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo; the National Art Centre, Tokyo; National Art Museum of China, Beijing; Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney; National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
South America Galleries: Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, Sao Paulo

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Oil Painting Evaluation of the Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Paro, Bhutan

Getting feedback on oil painting practice is a great way of gaining a fresh perspective upon a work of art. This will bring to focus issues the artist might have been unaware of. The focus of this article in this vein is a detailed landscape painting of the Tiger’s Nest Monastery by Ugyen Wangdi.

Painting of Taktsang Monastery in Bhutan

Courtesy of Ugyen Wangdi
Perched on the edge of a cliff, the Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan, also known as Paro Taktsang, is one of the most dramatic temples in the world. Above 10,000 feet above sea level, this Himalayan Buddhist temple is considered one of the holiest of the Buddhist people. 

Many challenges confront the artist in painting this dramatic scene, one of which is creating a sense of space.

The Strengths of This Panoramic Painting

The artist has shown great patience with rendering detail and soft blending on this painting, which must have taken many hours to do. Effects such as this can be achieved either by a series of soft glazes or by soft brushing with sables. The result is a fantasy-type landscape that is illustrative in effect with great visual appeal.

Art Techniques for Tiger Monastery in Bhutan

The sweeping valley to the right of the picture could have lacked interest for the large empty spaces. However, the dappled shadows within the woodlands draw the eye to a snaking valley floor and throughout the painting. Similarly, the artist has demonstrated visual awareness of how the greens shift to mauves and violets in the background, helping to suggest distance. These colours echo with the blues of the sky bringing harmony and balance. The painting as a result has a great sense of depth.

Painting the Temple Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan

One of the biggest challenges is the temple nestling on the Cliffside. The buildings, being quite old do not conform to the rules of perspectives that perpendicular buildings do, so extra attention is needed to get the angles right. The artist has sensitively observed the outlines of the buildings and how the angles relate to the cliff face.

Areas for Development in Landscape Painting

The painting has illustrative qualities, creating an idyllic feel. The artist has expressed a wish to achieve realism. Concentrating on light and shadow rather than detail is one way of gaining a fresh perspective upon a scene. A photograph showing the Tiger’s Nest under high contrast, such as on a bright sunny day will enable the artist to explore tonal contrasts above detail. Sitting too close to the painting can also cause the style to become tight and over-refined. I find it is a good idea to stand back and view the painting from a distance whilst it is in progress. Half-close the eyes in order to simplify the view into a few basic shapes. Limit brushes only to the wider variety, such as large bristle brushes to inject a looser style.

Painting of Cloud Bases

Again, the sky is illustrative and visually appealing. The cloud bases appear to curve from one side of the painting to the other, creating a vortex feel with the landscape. Cloud bases are usually flat in formation. Standing back from the painting will help clarify how the shapes within the painting fit together in a broader sense, where sitting too close can conceal issues.

A New Perspective in Landscape Painting

Perfecting an art technique can sometimes get in the way of learning new techniques in oil painting. Taking a look at how other landscape artists tackle their subject matter will help spur experimentation and trying new techniques. Recommended are the French Impressionists, Cezanne, Monet, Pissarro and Sisley. Other recommended are Corot, Van Gough, Matisse, El Greco, Kandinsky, Derain and Metzinger. These are to name but a few.

I have written articles on:
Overview of Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan

The high detail and blending techniques gives the painting an illustrative, almost fantasy feel. Empty spaces could have afflicted the scene but the artist has provided interesting shadows in the trees which lead the eye to the snaking valley in the distance. The subtle shift from green to violet emphasizes a sense of distance which contrasts with the temple.

Working too closely to the painting can cause the artist to agonize over detail with the danger of a tight style. An impressionist feel can be brought about by obtaining a photograph of the scene with high tonal contrasts and then working on the painting anew with large brushes. Break down the scene into basic areas of light and shadow, and view each area a generalized way. Stand back from the painting at regular intervals in order to get an overall view of how the tones fit together.

Taking a look at how other artists approach landscape painting cannot fail to offer inspiration and spur the artist to try new techniques. This contrasting way of working helps the artist get a more rounded approach to oil painting. Read here on tips for trying different artistic approaches.

Reference: BBC News Asia: Bhutan's cliff-top Tiger's Nest monastery (17 February 2014)
And then submit your painting via my Oil Painting Medic Facebook page.

Critique on Oil Painting of a Horse and Cart with Maiden in Snow

Getting an objective critique on an oil painting is the aim of this article here, which focuses upon an oil painting on panel, showing a wintry scene, a maiden standing beside a horse completed by C Shelley.

Horse Painting with Cart in Snow: the Strengths

Horse and Maiden in Snow C Shelley
There is a good sense of light and shadow on the snowy footprints leading through the gate. Close up, we can see how the artist has suggested a three-dimensional aspect to this difficult subject area. As can be seen, the shadows within the impressions give way abruptly to diffuse sunlight. A few dabs of paint are often all that is required to suggest textures in snow. 

The colour mixes of the snow have also been sensitively portrayed, comprising pthalo blue (a cool blue similar to cobalt), a little burnt sienna and white. A cool blue mixed with a warm colour can bring about an array of china blues, often seen in delicate snow colours.

An Opaque Oil Painting Technique

Overall, the painting has an opaque feel, not achieved by glazing techniques, but by the application of neat pigment – that is by loading the brush and ladling on the colour without oil mediums. The result is a weighty feel to the painting that reinforces the wintry atmosphere. However, this has not impeded the artist’s ability to apply detail, which can be seen in the brickwork and the snowy branches.

Filling in the Gaps of an Oil Painting

Artists tiring at the end of a painting session might be tempted to smooth out the paint over a blank area of background in a bid to fill in all the gaps, but is not the case here: every inch has been given the same emphasis in a tenacious way. Strategic detail has been applied to the brickwork, the fence and the snow on the branches. This could only have been achieved by the use of fine sables.

Oil Painting Development

The painting possesses compositional issues regarding the line of rooftops in the background which causes a disjointed feel. The tree trunk lies at a point of where the two rooftops meet, causing an unwanted focal point. This splits the upper part of the painting in half, causing unwanted visual channels towards the centre of the painting. This could be put right if the tree were to be moved to the left or omitted altogether. The windows’ blank panes have also set up unwanted echoes in the background. Overall, the background is a little busy, causing the eye to draw away from the woman and the horse.

Painting Horses with Figures

As all areas of the painting have been given equal emphasis in treatment, the main subject matter has been delegated a little. Signs of idealization can be seen on the woman’s face and on the horse, which has the same solid feel as the brickwork. As the woman’s face and the horse form the focal point of the painting, attention is required here. A little ultramarine and burnt sienna from a fine sable will bring out the contours of the woman’s face; permanent rose applied thinly is great for suggesting the blush of a cold day.

Painting Fur on Horses

The horse has little sense of form, due perhaps to a poor visual resource. Fur can be suggested by the application of thin paint from a fine sable – not all over, but in strategic places. The horse’s mane, for instance could benefit by the feathering out of a few hair strands. Contours of the horse’s flank can be borne from emphasizing light and shadow. But guesswork is never a good thing. If the photograph worked from does not reveal sensitive detail, the artist may be forced to resort to conjecture. Often, this causes idealization to sneak into a painting, which seems to be the case in the subject matter here.

More about painting horses can be found on this site, as well as

Critique of Horse Painting with Maid

The footprints in the snow have been sensitively portrayed along with the snowy colours, which brings a strong sense of a wintry day. Detail has been competently applied despite using opaque paint, which can be a challenge in itself. There are plenty of visual textures to interest the eye throughout the painting. 

However, compositional issues regarding the line of roofs in the background and the central position of the tree causes the eye to wander to unwanted areas of the painting. There are signs of idealization on the woman’s face, the horse and the windows in the background. This makes good visual resources vital for crucial detail.

Read how to enter your painting for evaluation.
And then submit your painting via my Oil Painting Medic Facebook page.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Feedback on A Beginner’s First Ever Landscape Painting

Getting a balanced critique can help the beginner develop in landscape painting, and to this end, the focus of this article is a landscape painting by Alison Lindsay. A first ever landscape sketch is a big step and could pave the way for exploration in oils. Here, I offer balanced feedback for the beginner.

A First Landscape Painting: The Strengths

Courtesy of Alison Lindsay
Having taught art, have seen the difficulty some students have in making that transition into oil painting for the first time. Quite often, students find it hard even to lay that first brush mark. This artist has shown guts in completing a first painting. This is a great achievement in itself.

Here, evidence of an innate eye for atmosphere and potential for finding a personal style can be seen. The mood is one of the painting’s strengths. It’s great to see a landscape painting with equal emphasis upon the sky as the land. A landscape with a wishy-washy or bland sky can look somewhat flat. The clouds have a definite colour bias, being violet, which adds interest. Expressive brush marks lead the eye towards the horizon.

Hue and Tone in Landscape Painting

Here, we can see subtle use of complementary colours. Complementary colours are those that are opposed on the colour wheel, such as violet and yellow, or blue and red. In the same vein, we can see a subtle clash of warm and cool colours: cool violets in the sky against warm rustic tones on the land. Using complementary colours in this way is great for creating focal points throughout the painting and add punch.

Composition in Landscape Painting

The artist might or might not have been aware that the placement of the tree conforms to the rule-of-thirds. Any composition can be seen to be divided into roughly thirds. Place an object where the resultant lines lie, and that object grows in significance, as can be seen in the image below the painting. Using the rule of thirds is a great way of finding pleasing compositions, particularly in landscape painting.

Development in Landscape Painting: Tips on Green Mixes

Quite often the beginner paints what is perceived to be seen but which becomes idealized. This can be seen in certain hues of the tree. Although brown and green will often be seen in trees, they are often more muted than one might expect, or possess unexpected colours. The pigment viridian green can often be overused to express foliage, although this colour might not have been used here.

Green often needs muting in landscape painting. Here, the tone of the tree causes it to advance. Muting with a little blue and white with the colour mixture might help bring it into balance with its surrounding.

Painting Lakes: an Overview

Water is one of the most difficult subject matter to paint in landscapes, particularly reflections. Often the outlines of lakes are undefined without any perceived outline at all, more a meandering of seemingly erratic marks without a definite line. The hue used for the reflections are quite sensitively portrayed, although idealization has sneaked in here. The best way to combat this problem is to get excellent visual resources that leave nothing to the imagination. Sensitive observation will also help. This is not as easy as it sounds. Often my students forget to look and see, not simply paint what is perceived to be there.

Links to the following articles addresses some of the issues with idealization in landscape painting, as well as tips on painting lakes.

A First Landscape Painting: The Conclusion

This painting possess great mood in that equal emphasis is given to the sky as to the land. The clouds provide interest in how the cool violets gently clash against the rustic foreground. The brush marks in the clouds injects energy and expression. The tree is well-placed in the frame, leading the eye into the painting.

Some evidence of idealization is evident in the portrayal of the lake and the colour mixes of the tree. However, lakes are quite difficult to paint. Often my students require extra support in painting reflections. Green mixes also often require sensitive observation. The artist’s greatest achievement is painting that first landscape. This often paves the way for others.

Want your painting evaluated?

And then submit your painting via my Oil Painting Medic Facebook page.

Feedback on an Oil Painting: a Double Portrait with Winton Oils

Receiving objective feedback on oil painting can be essential for artist development, as working too closely to any work of art can cause issues to become invisible. A fresh eye or opinions of another will help bring these issues into focus. The focus of this article in this vein is an accomplished double portrait completed in Winton oil paints by Veronica Gaucher.

Critique of Portraiture: the Strengths

Courtesy of Veronica Gaucher
This skillful double portrait has many strengths, of which one is the sensitive portrayal of the facial features. Here we can see the outlines of the eyebrows and sideburns have been blended out slightly into the surrounding flesh colour. Strategic blending is crucial for successful portraiture; harsh outlines of facial hair, whether hairline, eyelashes or brows can cause unwanted focal points in portrait painting but is not the case here.

Subtle shading of the facial contours are also accomplished, and am guessing the artist has achieved this by the use of soft sables with perhaps a little glazing, although any soft material can bring about soft gradations in features. The artist shows high awareness of how the facial features fit together in a portrait which helps bring a good likeness to the subject. There are also no unwanted harsh outlines delineating the facial features such as the nose or lips.

Suggestions for Development

The artist has wisely substituted the background from the one shown in the photograph, as background clutter can rob all focus from the portrait. Cool colours might bring greater harmony with the warm skin tones as the existing reddish hue vies for attention. Cool colours are often a great way of bringing pleasing contrasts with warm skin colour. Suggestion might be a blend of ultramarine and burnt sienna to bring a cool indigo hue, blending with a little white to temper the depth in tone, although any bluish hue will do: cobalt or cerulean with burnt sienna or permanent rose with a little white.

Moving the brush in various directions rather than in one direction will bring a more organic feel to the painting. Smoothing out the paint layer into a blurred background is also worth trying out. A little blending might be required around the outlines of the figures, to make them appear to belong to the setting as opposed to cut out.

Colour Casts in Portraiture

The artist has had to deal with colour casts which is a common problem in portrait photography. As can be seen here, there is a bluish tinge to the photograph but the skin tones in the painting has a more brownish-yellow bias. Perhaps a little more ultramarine and permanent rose might be needed within facial shadows to correct the colour balance. The pigment can be applied as a fine glaze from a fine sable on selected areas and blended out into the existing colour. The smallest amount of pigment with a little oil medium such as linseed oil will often do. This process might best be practiced on a fresh portrait painting, so a comparison can be made with this one, and in case things go wrong.

Hair Colour in Portraiture

Hair can be a common issue in portraits, as it is often viewed as a separate entity to the face, when really comparisons should be drawn. A little blending of highlights might bring a softer feel to the brown hair in the foreground. I would recommend a little ultramarine, burnt umber and white. Drag a tiny bit of this cool pale colour like crayon around the highlight areas and blend out into the darker colour. Reinforcement of shadow colours will likely be needed around the darkest areas of hair to bring the tones into balance. I would recommend burnt umber, a little burnt sienna and ultramarine for the darkest areas of hair. Notice there is quite a lot of bluish hues in the hair which could be brought out. Colour bias too much in one direction can cause portraiture to appear a little flat, but could easily be put right here.

More about painting brown hair can be found on my other article here.

Assessing an Oil Painting

Overall, this double portrait has many strengths, most importantly how the facial features fit together including subtle shading around the facial contours. These form the focal point and are therefore most crucial.

A cool-coloured background will bring out the flesh tones and reinforce focal point upon the figures. A little soft blending from a soft sable might be needed around the outlines of the figures to make them appear to belong to the setting. A little adjustment to the shadow colours of the faces will counter the brownish cast to the skin; a small amount of bluish-violet hue, as described. Dragging a little dry paint into the highlights of the hair will suggest soft textures. Tonal readjustment will be needed in shadow areas, to bring it into balance.

Want your Painting Evaluated?

Read how to submit your painting
And then post your painting on my Oil Painting Medic Facebook page.

More feedback on other paintings on the way!