The painting above is my eighteenth painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This lesson is about layering a simple abstract design. In his introduction the author addresses the common misconception that all abstract painting is basically random with no planning involved. Then he gives a simple algorithm to create the design using overlapping circles and layering paint to color them. This process is great for practice in color mixing and matching. You can also create an infinite number of variations in the number and arrangements of shapes you use. Any geometric or free-form shape will do.
JFJ Silhouettes (above) is an example of how representational subject matter can be used in this design algorithm. I liked the overall mood of this one.
I made Warm Colored Layers to use as an example of the hard-edged style of painting. It was included as part of this post because it illustrates the concepts over overlapping circles and unity through color harmony.
The painting above is my seventeenth painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This lesson is about layering over an underpainting. The final product is made of multiple layers of transparent glazes that have been made by thinning the paint with acrylic medium.
The author recommends practicing this process with different species of trees. For mine I decided to do cypress trees in a swamp setting. Since it included water, I was also able to practice reflections.
Notice that in these paintings the silhouettes are a dark value of reddish brown. This gives them a more atmospheric look than if they had been plain black.
The painting above is my sixteenth painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This lesson was about layering opaque paint over transparent. Basically, you start laying down transparent layers of paint using medium to thin it, then use thicker paint in subsequent layers.
I’m enjoying the freedom of rendering things like foliage with these broad brush strokes. I also like the rich look of thick paint or impasto. This is a painting technique in which you lay down thick brush strokes and leave the texture instead of smoothing them out. The strokes can be almost 3-D in appearance and can even cast their own shadows. Vincent Van Gogh was famous for this technique, often squeezing paint directly onto the canvas.
I chose this particular tree for a model because it has character. Like a bonsai.
My tree is plain and flat compared to Van Gogh’s but I’m thinking about getting some gel medium to get the paint thicker and really go for that textured look.
The painting above is my fifteenth painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This lesson is about creating convincing shadows in a painting by keeping value relationships consistent. He uses the shadows of the trees crossing the road to illustrate this concept. Even though the shadows fall across two colors – the road and the grass – they look consistent because both of those colors are about the same medium-dark shade.
For my version, I used photo of a road for a model. It has a bit more detail and some sunlit highlights. This brings up the subject of painting from photographs and still being creative. The best way is to take your own photos. That way you are designing the composition and it’s all yours. However, it’s okay to work from someone else’s photo if you make some significant changes like cropping, adjusting or changing colors, leaving things out or adding things in.
The painting above is my fourteenth painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This one includes basic a drawing lesson. The author explains how to expedite the drawing process by visualizing the subject in terms of geometric shapes. For example, the side of the cake can be broken down into rectangles while the top can be seen as a triangle.
The inspiration for the subject matter comes from Wayne Thiebaud, who became famous in the 1960’s for his beautiful paintings of desserts.
For my versions I used square shaped pieces of cake for models. They were delicious!
The painting above is my thirteenth painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This lesson is about layering cool over warm colors. Whether you are layering cool over warm or warm over cool, this technique can liven up what might be an otherwise dull color scheme.
While painting the examples for some of these lessons, I have had to make some adjustments in color to get results that look like the ones in the book. I don’t know if the discrepancies are due to color changes made in the publishing process or to the fact that I’m probably using cheaper paint. In this case I had trouble getting the right green for the pasture. You can see remnants of two greens where I painted over it a couple of times. Anyway, if you decide to get the book and paint the examples, don’t be discouraged if your results don’t line up exactly with those in the book.
For my version, I looked for a similar type scene, settling for this one with a house, and a large tree in the foreground. I tried to emphasize the look of bright sunlight by keeping the foreground very dark in contrast to the light greens surrounding the house.
For those who might not be familiar with artist trading cards, these are 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″original artworks. About 20 years ago someone in Switzerland came up with the idea to make these and trade them online as a fun way to get hold of some original artwork.. Since then, online sites have been created just for that purpose. There are also auction sites where collectors can purchase them. (When for sale they’re referred to as ACEO’s or Art Cards, Editions, and Originals.) Although there are ready-made frames for them, collectors often store and display them in the same type pocket pages used for baseball cards. This is because the artists often write interesting things on the backs.
The painting above is my twelfth painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This lesson is about textured layering, an effect created by painting in a textural style that allows an underlying layer of color to show through. For his example, the author does a takeoff on the color field painting style of Mark Rothko – specifically, Rothko’s signature geometric compositions.
This lesson presents a good opportunity to talk about treatment of subject matter in art. There are three basic ways to render a subject: representational in which the subject is made to look realistic; abstract in which the subject is rendered in an exaggerated, distorted, or stylized way; and non-objective or non-representational. In a non-representational painting like the example above, the subject matter is the color, shape, and texture.
Even though non-objective painting has been around since early twentieth century, many people still don’t see the point. One way that helps is to see it as an piece of instrumental music – a tune without lyrics. Wassily Kandinsky actually tried to create a parallel between music and painting in his Improvisations and Compositions.
Anyway, like the cardboard box in lesson 8, this non-objective idea was probably chosen by the author for its simplicity so that the student could jump right into the painting process without having to first create a complicated drawing.
This also brings up the subject of inspiration and creativity. It’s okay to get inspiration from another artist but if you do, you need to change something about it to make it your own. So for my version of this one, I stayed with the rectangles but varied the arrangement so that if someone knowledgeable about 20th century art looked at my painting they wouldn’t automatically say, “Oh look! A Mark Rothko ripoff!”
They probably would, however, say that about this bookmark. Okay fine! I ripped off Mark Rothko to paint this bookmark.
The painting above is my eleventh painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This lesson is about painting negative space. Usually when artists talk about negative space, they are referring its importance in composition. In this case, however, it is only being used as a method to more easily and precisely render details such as the spike heel. He also includes instructions for painting highlights on a shiny surface such as this patent leather shoe.
For my personal expression of the shoe painting, I looked at some patent leather heels and picked out a pair I liked better than the one in the example. It’s more vintage looking because I’m sort of vintage. The method and colors are the same as the example.
For the tree below, I first covered the entire canvas with random brush strokes in several colors. (I had seen something similar to this on Pinterest and thought it might be fun to try. It was. ) Anyway, then I “drew” the tree shape by filling in the negative space (the background) with white paint.
The painting above is my tenth painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This lesson is about mixing tints and shades. Tints are light values of a color made by adding white. Shades are dark values of a color made by adding black.
This is the first lesson in which I have been able to get a handle on the relaxed brushwork demonstrated in the example. My biggest problem with acrylic has always been that I tend to be really fussy and over work the paint. I think the key to getting a fresh casual appearance is to put down a brush stroke and leave it the heck alone.
I really love poppies so this was a fun subject. I actually had some pictures of different kinds in my visual files. This one is an Oriental Poppy.
Before I decided to blog about this book, I had already gotten to this point in the book and painted a 6 x 6 version of the poppy. When my granddaughter was here visiting from out of state, she loved it and I gave it to her. So when I decided to do the blog, I had to do another painting to replace it – the 4 x 6 with the foliage. It actually turned out better than the rest because, by then, I’d had some more practice. I’m making progress! Yay!
The painting above is my ninth painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This one is about painting simple reflections in water. As in some of the previous lessons, a photographic model would have been valuable in order to see where he came from with this. I just copied his brush strokes the best I could and came up with the above result.
In taking the lesson further, however, it was necessary to look at some photographs of actual boats with reflections. I also looked at other things that cast reflections in water, such as swans, etc. Like the moon reflection in lesson one, the effect varies widely depending on the light and the movement of the water. The quieter the water, the clearer the shapes. The choppier the water the more the shapes are broken up. Sometimes there is no reflection at all like in the bottom example.
As you can see, my version is fussier than the author’s example. I had to repaint the reflections several times and still didn’t much like the result.
Also some of the boat details are guesswork so I hope I don’t annoy any sailboat experts with my inaccuracies.