The painting above is my 30th painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This lesson is about massing multiple objects into groups to create a more unified whole. The example was hard to paint because it was basically just copying brushstrokes. I changed it a bit from the one in the book in order to clarify the shapes of the flowers. These are Oriental Poppies.
I chose a different type of poppy for my own painting below. These have a different type of center and come in a variety of pinks. I love the white edging around some of the petals. However, as usual, my brushstrokes are overworked. I think I would have to paint a lot of poppies in order to get it as casual looking as Mark Daniel Nelson’s.
I also did a bookmark and an artist trading card for this post.
The painting above is my 24th painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This lesson is about redefining the brushstroke, but to me it is more about how this type of technique has redefined what it means to be an artist.
In the past century, the definition of what constitutes an art work has become so vague that not many people could say for sure what it is. As an art teacher, I had to come up with a working definition to use in class and it is this: if a thing involves the act of conscious designing on the part of a human being, it is art. It may not be good art but it is art. This definition eliminates accidents and animal art – although those make good-selling novelties.
Drip painting is a form of Abstract Expressionism called Action Painting that embraces a variety of methods other than brushes to get paint on canvas. My favorite action painter was the Japanese artist Shozo Shimamo who filled balloons with paint and fired a small hand-made cannon at them. Anyway, the idea behind all of this experimentation was that the act of painting was more important than the resulting product, an idea which has gained a foothold in our culture.
Also people have become more accepting of the products of Abstract Expressionism. For example a blog called doiydesign.com has some nice looking products for sale called Pollock Trend. They have such items as cooking pots and tennis shoes all beautifully decorated with spattered paint.
Jackson Pollock – also known as “Jack the Dripper” is most famous for the drip technique although he wasn’t the first artist to employ it in his work. He would lay a large canvas on the floor, drip paint on it until he was satisfied, cut out the part he liked best and stretch it onto a canvas. So here’s the question: Is that art? Based on my definition above, it is, simply because he chose the colors, he decided where to drip the paint, and he chose the final composition. Is it good art? That’s a matter of great contention among art lovers.
Below are a few of my “experiments” with drip painting. The author recommended staying with analogous colors to make the work more unified.
My problem with this sort of reduction is that it’s taken away the uniqueness of what it means to be an artist because “anybody can do it,” right? Used alone, the drip technique is accessible to anyone. However, there are some like Henri Lamy who have incorporated it into their work as a successful textural component. I put it in the background of my cat painting below. Actually these are more like spatters than drips but it’s hard to make small drips on a 5″ x 7″ canvas.
This is sweet Meeps who is sojourning with us until his family takes him to Texas. I used a palette knife to paint the cat and then masked him off and spattered his surroundings.
Here are couple of notes about the process. First, I had to order a special brush from Blick– an egbert which is a filbert with really long bristles. You don’t have to have one to drip paint but it helps because it’s really floppy. Second, drip painting takes longer than you might think because of drying time between layers. Third, once you get started doing this, it’s hard to quit! Below are some more- but not all – of my experiments.
Marbled looks like marbling, but it was made by turning a bunch of almost empty bottles upside down in a dish drainer over a piece of canvas and letting the paint drip and flow wherever it wanted.
I employed an eyedropper to help with Flower Drops and manipulated the drops with toothpicks to create the star-shaped centers of the flowers.
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.
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.