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Beaverton, Ontario, Canada
Canadian painter since the 50's.

Living in the painting

When you paint, or draw, if you concentrate on what you are doing, you live in the painting. It is real life to you as you create. Perhaps that is why painting is said to be such great therapy. It is a diversion from everyday life and from whatever may be bothering you.

A few tips

Why should I make straight lines instead of curved or irregular lines?

Straight lines show character and form objects better than curved lines especially in the beginning stages of a drawing or painting.

How should I go from one edge or plane to another?

Always soften your edges. Never leave a hard line between two planes. Dry brush the edges smooth. In other words, feather the edges.

What does dry brush mean?

Just what the term suggests. Brush with little or no paint on the brush.

Do you have to know how to draw in order to paint?

It depends upon what you are painting. If you paint portraits or mechanical subjects such as buildings, cars, ships or trains, drawing is very important. If you are doing landscapes, drawing is helpful but not necessary. If you have the ability it is always best to learn how to draw before you paint. However that doesn't mean you shouldn't paint. Many a fine work of art has been done without drawing.

What does value mean?

Any landscape has to have values. This gives it depth. Values are not colors. Values are various color strengths as you proceed to the background of your painting. Adding white to a color changes its value. You can also do the same by adding its complement, but it's easier to just add white. Usually the colors get lighter the farther back they are. These are what are called value changes. Most objects have value changes. At least three are required to make the object stand out.

How do I make objects stand out?

Contrast makes objects stand out. Contrast is achieved by either using different colors or changing the value of a color. You can't see an object unless it is a different color than the background. Exaggerating an object against its background makes it stand out.

What is a good way of making an object stand out?

Use pure color and dab it on thick. Leave it. Don't play with it after. This is how you make highlights and should only be done in the final stages of the painting.

Do I paint with acrylics in the same way as oils?

For the most part, yes. Acrylics dry fast, in a matter of minutes. Oils can take days or weeks. There are no odors with acrylics, but oils can give off fumes depending on what you are doing. Most of the techniques are similar as long as you know how to keep acrylics from drying out before you are ready. I will cover this in detail later.

Masonite panels for painting

Masonite is an excellent panel for painting both in oils and acrylics. It is prefered by many professional artists. It has to be treated first or it will suck up all your paint. You can use gesso or latex wall paint that you can buy in any paint or hardware store. I use white. It must be applied both sides and all edges. This seals and balances the panel so it is less likely to warp. I give each panel at least two coats each side, sometimes more. Allow to dry overnight before applying the second or third coat. If you apply the second coat in gray or some other color, you will not miss spots. White is hard to cover a second time without missing a spot or two.
If you have previously sanded and covered an old failed painting, as I did, you may have to lightly sand a few rough spots after the final coat of paint. Rough spots do not mix well with your new painting unless you need them there for texture. I like it smooth to start, and sometimes I finish smooth, especially when doing portraits.
The images here show some panels I have just completed, ready for the next masterpiece.

Canvas or canvas panels

I received a pile of canvas panels a few years ago. Some artists don't like to use them because they aren't supposed to be permanent. I wonder about that. I have some paintings done on canvas panels that are sixty plus years old and the paintings are the same as they were back then. I destroyed one that was done about thirty years ago because I foolishly stored it in a plastic garbage bag thinking it would preserve it. It turned black in the corners, mold I presume, and I burned it.

That being said, canvas panels are fine at least for sixty rears as far as I am concerned. They are good for students to learn on and they are excellent for painting on location. I plan to use mine for planning some pieces and later transfer the work to either canvas or prepared masonite. Some I might even use for the final work. I think it all depends on how well you keep the painting. Hang it on the wall. Never seal it in a garbage bag. We artists like to live forever through our paintings. What we chose to paint on, and how we look after our work determines longevity.

Any world you choose

When you paint you are in the painting. You actually live the scene or subject. This may be why painting is considered good therapy for some. In any case you are in that world. When the painting is finished you automatically share that world with others when they view it. That being said, painting, or drawing, can put you into any world you choose. No wonder art is one of the most popular hobbies in the world today.

Tweeking old paintings

A word about tweeking older works. As we improve and look back at some of our older paintings we have to make a decision. I do anyway. I don't like to keep bad work. So it has to go to the burn barrel or be tweeked.

The main problem with tweeking older work is the paint thickness. You can't paint over thick paint and do a good job. Besides, it will crack eventually. I'm talking about oils here. That limits the amount of work to be tweeked. Only those paintings done on panels or masonite will survive. Forget those done on canvas. I remove the old paint that is thick or that forms a hard edge with a sander. You lose a lot but you still keep the basic drawing. The panel becomes smooth and ready for painting. Remember, if it was originally painted in oils, you have to tweek it in oils. Acrylics won't stick to oil paint.

I just worked on a half dozen panels and they are ready for re-working. The paintings done on canvas will go to the burn barrel. No hope for them. But before I do this, I shall trace my drawing so I can do the whole thing again on a fresh panel or canvas.

Hard edges

If you keep your painting smooth, especially if you are painting several objects such as boats, houses, people and certainly portraits, you will have no trouble making changes later, even years later. No hard edges. By that I mean don't leave a ridge of paint at the edge of a subject. Always start at the edge of your subject and pull the brush inward. This eliminates a hard edge. Remember, the subject usually should emerge from the background rather than be planted on it. Go over the lines. It helps. Be loose but also careful. Don't be afraid to merge the subject's color into its background color.

My previous post is a lesson on what happens when you have hard edges and want to re-work your painting years later. You have to remove the hard edges first by sanding them smooth.

One of my first instructors, who was an English portrait painter, always told me to keep it smooth. Thick paint has its place but make sure you are in the final stages before making it thick. All of this applies to both oils and acrylics.