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.
Art students will often balk at having to paint something plain like this. The subject, however, was wisely chosen for its simplicity so that the student can focus on learning the concept being taught without getting bogged down with a complicated drawing. The idea is that you learn from the simple exercise, then use what you learn to do what you want. It’s similar to learning a musical instrument. You start out learning scales. Later you learn the tunes.
So I painted the cardboard box according to directions and then drew myself a castle and painted that using the same palette, but rearranging the light and shadow a bit. Did I mention that I love castles?
In lesson 4, Deep Blue Sea, the color of the sea changed gradually from dark to light as it goes toward the horizon. This effect was achieved by blending paint directly on the canvas. In this painting the different values are mixed on the palette and then applied to the canvas creating separate shapes of differing values. I highly recommend using a palette knife instead of a brush to do that kind of mixing.
Two things I’d like to mention about this painting: first, the use of atmospheric perspective to create a sense of spatial depth. The concept is simple: if you want something to look farther away, make it lighter with fewer details. That’s because our air is not perfectly clear. It’s full of dust particles and vapor that gradually obscure things that are far away from us. Most people notice this when looking out over a mountain range, but the effect is everywhere, even looking across a pasture. It also varies with the weather and time of day.
The other thing I’d like to address is the rendering of edges around shapes. The use of soft or hard edges in a painting can make a difference in the overall mood or feeling. I think the author used hard edges in his example so that the learner only needs to concentrate on mixing different values. However, softly blurring the edges of the peaks would have created a mistier effect on these mountains.
Unfortunately I didn’t think about that until I started writing this post so I don’t have an example with soft edges.
The painting above is my sixth painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This lesson is about applying a simple glaze. A glaze is a translucent layer of paint applied over a paint layer that has already dried in order to modify it in some way. It may be used to make the underlying layer look darker, lighter, or duller. Or it can change the actual hue. For instance, applying a thin coat of red over yellow will make it look orange. In this lesson the application of the glaze over the bread and butter seems to be for a softening effect which I thought looked very nice.
In previous posts I have mentioned the importance of creativity – doing something original in a work of art, and that is why I’ve been doing an extra painting for these posts that is at least slightly different from the author’s example. To achieve some originality in my personal versions so far, I have only been adding details to the author’s idea or rearranging some his elements. This time I tried to think of a completely different subject that would still fit the recommended color palette and glazing technique. Below are my two resulting artworks. These eggs don’t look very appetizing but they fit the bill.
The bookmark is actually a cut out canvas shape. I had to scan it on black paper so that the top edge of egg white would show up on this background.
Sometimes, being creative just involves doing something you love. Because of my cholesterol issues I only get to eat actual fried eggs once a week. Saturday is “egg day” at our house and we like them lacy edged, with a side of crispy bacon and buttered toast. Pleasant thoughts create nice visual images and fun art work.
What I want to talk about is the model. My example above is similar to the example in the book but I cleaned up the edges. It looks a bit awkward because A) I don’t know much about rowboats and B) the author’s example is loosely painted so that the broad strokes don’t define the form very well.
The problem is not the author’s free style of painting. If you go to his Facebook page, you’ll see that he’s used it to produce some beautiful work. The problem is that learning how to do that loose brushwork well can be harder for some people than staying inside the lines. In the context of this lesson, however, I think it would have been better if he had worked from a model and then put a photo of it in the book along with his example. That’s because sometimes it’s important for a learner to see how the teacher got from Point A to Point B. Doing that would also have given him an opportunity to talk about how to work creatively from a photograph. Maybe I’ll cover that subject myself in a future post.
Anyway, for my second painting (the one below), I found a picture of a rowboat to use for a model. I used the same process and palette, leaving the white areas unpainted.
This one is a very hard-edged because that’s easier for me to do, but I’ve noticed that as I work through these lessons I’m beginning to loosen up a bit as you will see in later posts.
The painting above is my fourth painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This lesson introduces simple gradations – specifically, gradation of value created by blending different colors of paint together on the canvas while the colors are still wet.
Value is the lightness or darkness of a color. Changes in value are created by adding white or black to the pure hue ( color). Gradation of value, (also called blending or shading) is used to create different effects in an artwork. For example, it can make an object look three dimensional.
The purpose of gradation in this lesson is to create a sense of spatial depth. In this case it makes the beach look close and the horizon look far away. Having the blue get darker also conveys a sense that the water gets deeper as you go farther from the shore.
The book gives a good explanation about the problems and solutions associated with blending in a medium like acrylic that dries quickly. As you can see from the example above, my transitions are not perfectly smooth. The importance of smooth gradation depends on your subject and the level of realism you want to achieve. For example, if I were trying to accurately depict the surface of a rounded object like a china cup or an egg, the transition from light to dark would need to be more even than what I have achieved here.
Below is my own version of Deep Blue Sea in which I’ve tried to exercise some personal creativity. (See note on creativity in the prior post) Sometimes you only need to make a few changes in order to make something your own. In this example, I just changed the shape of the shoreline and added some little details.
I liked this subject well enough to use up the leftover paint on the smaller versions below.