Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What materials do you use?

I was originally trained with traditional oils. I moved on to alkyd oils because I liked the fact that they dried more quickly but still provided me with the flexibility of a traditional oil. I finally transitioned to water-soluble oils years later after discovering them and doing some research on them.

I presently use Winsor & Newton Artisan paints. However, once I get through those, I will be switching full time to Holbein Duo Aqua and Royal Talens Cobra because of their handling. But, sometimes you just find the right color and gotta have it regardless of the brand!

I occasionally will use a medium, though presently, my heart is sold out to alla prima painting. (Though, artist and Chair of Painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Al Gury points out in Alla Prima: A Contemporary Guide to Traditional Direct Painting that one-sitting paintings are but one facet of working in the alla prima tradition; glazing during and after completed is within it as well.)

I use synthetic brushes—Princeton and Artisan—because they are (relatively) inexpensive and get the job done. Plus, because I use water-soluble paints, I find that synthetics hold up in water better than natural hair brushes.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What is your process?

Germination. Organization. Implementation.

Like most artists, ideas come to me at odd times. For me the struggle is remembering to bring a sketchbook—everywhere! After the idea(s) come, I let them simmer in my mind. During this germination process, I will refine ideas in my head or do a series of simple thumbnail sketches to explore compositions. If the piece is a still life and I don’t have the supplies to even do it, I continue on with this process. I may look for the objects or leave it as a thumbnail with notes for a later date.

Once I am ready to begin the actual painting, I organize my objects. If I determine that the idea in my head isn’t going to work, I modify it so that it does. This may mean simply removing objects, swapping one object for another or changing an object’s placement. Whatever way I need to make it work, I make it happen. I limit the time I spend doing this because it will consume the time I have alloted to paint.

Once that organizational component is complete, I tone my canvas with a wash of color. Then, using my brush as a pencil, I loosely sketch in my composition, working and reworking as necessary. Before I apply color, I will often block in at least three values, providing myself with a simple notan of lights, middles and darks. I then mix the colors I see and begin to paint. I would love to tell you that I cover my canvas before finishing an area but that doesn’t always happen. In fact, the application of the paint to the canvas takes a variety of forms but in the end it gets done.

While I have gone back and forth about varnishing, presently I do apply three coats of a quality spray-on varnish to my finished pieces.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Composition with Yellow and Red, alla prima oil painting

Composition with Yellow and Red, 9 x 12 inches. Oil on canvas panel.
©2010, Jeffrey W. Phillips
During my August convalescence, I reworked an older oil painting. I am now looking forward to creating a few paintings featuring that copper pot of mine. I will have to look into getting some Fall fruit and/or veggies too. Gotta love how ideas spark other ideas.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Daddy Bear, alla prima oil painting

Daddy Bear, 5 x 7 inches. Oil on canvas panel.
©2010, Jeffrey W. Phillips
A friend of mine gave my son this bear when he was born. Frankly, he never paid it much mind until he turned 4 and he transitioned to his big-boy bed. To complicate matters, I had started a new job and was working quite a bit acclimating myself to my new position. Needless to say, he missed me terribly.

During this time, he rediscovered this bear and gave it the name Daddy Bear. At 6 years old, he still sleeps with it and takes it on sleepovers. He was thrilled when he came home and saw it on my easel. (Of course, my daughter wants to know where her painting is!)

I painted it because it's a wonderful reminder of my son's love for me.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ouch ...

I know I have been delinquent in posting. My family and I were in an auto accident at the end of July. Fortunately, my wife and two kids were unharmed. Sadly, I suffered some internal bleeding and a lacerated spleen. After being in the hospital for four days (with my spleen intact!), I was discharged and homebound for three weeks. While homebound, I was hoping to get some painting done. Unfortunately, other accident-related issues came up that completely took the wind out of my sails.                                                            

The last week of August brought teacher orientation. The first day of school followed the week following. It was a long end of Summer to say the least. But, again, I  remain so very thankful for the Lord's provision for me and my family during that time.

All of this being said, I did finish two small pieces and started another. I'll post them shortly. I wanted to simply put the word out that I did not drop off the face of the earth.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Framed: In Search of Framing Vendors

With my friend opening her new counseling office, I have been thinking more about framing my work and what options are out there. Fleisher Art Memorial is offering a 6-week class in July called Framing Basics, but funds are short.

So, I'm going to go the way of purchasing ready-made frames. Anybody have recommendations regarding frame vendors? I've been using A.C. Moore (and their helpful little 40% off coupons) and Michaels for my short-term needs, but I'd like somewhere reasonable with bulk rate options.

The places I have looked into at one point or another include:


Click Here to Visit the Official Web Site of Jerry's Artarama. Online Leader in Art Supplies and Discount Art Supplies online During a recent frame search for my high school art show, I also discovered the awesome values at Jerry's Artarama. A gold 8x10 Plein aire frame is $13.99 on sale right now (regularly $19.99). This frame style also comes in black, mahogany and silver.

Though not as good, Dick Blick does better than the online vendors above.

What ready-made frame sites do you use? 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Blessings of a Friend

Friends are a blessing from the Lord.

Last week, Tricia Elliott, a therapist friend, opened a new office for her counseling practice and wanted to use my artwork to decorate it. She knows about my desire to paint more regularly and start selling my work. Plus, she admires and enjoys my art. How could I refuse such an offer, right?

So, I gathered together the following three pieces for right now:

Fruit with Vessels
Oil on Board
9x12







Yellow Speaks
Oil on Board
9x12






It's Not Easy Being Blue
Oil on Board
9x12








I have another 9x12 that I'm reworking and three 8x10 pieces that I'll post once I get frames.

The next things on my list include :

  • Mounting tags with title and price for each work
  • Printing a business card
  • Writing an artist statement
I have been reading up on artist statements online; however, I earned some Borders Bucks from Borders.com and purchased I'd Rather Be in the Studio by Alyson Stanfield for some more specific help with this and other art-sales strategies. It has gotten good reviews. Perhaps I'll do a review next month.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Naylor's Run Park, alla prima painting

Naylor's Run Park, Lansdowne, PA
At left, is the last painting I did during my weekend en plein air oil painting workshop.

Unlike my previous two paintings, I decided to work like I normally do by starting with a loose value sketch. Since I was experimenting with the limited palette that Kevin Macpherson uses (i.e., ultramarine blue, permanent alizarin crimson, cadmium yellow light and white), I didn't know what to expect. I mixed the ultramarine and alizarin together to form a dark neutral value that I massed in the background.  I used a towel to pull out lights and scumbled in more paint where middle values and shadows were needed.

As I tell my high school students, when you get a chance of seeing your work as a monochromatic composition, then your transition to color should be easier because you worked out key elements of the composition. Well, things progressed faster than my other two paintings.

When my instructor, Fred Kaplan, came around he recommended some changes which I was about finished with when he popped up again. He asked to work on my piece a moment. After he introduced some more middle values to the foliage in the back, we talked a few more minutes and then I readjusted areas where I didn't agree with him (nobody's perfect, right?).

My number one complaint? I wish I had taken photos with my cellphone so I could post more process-related pics; see things step-by-step. But, I didn't (duh, Phillips, right?) It would have been interesting to hear comments on what I started with versus what I ended with.

Therefore, I'm going to hold off with my additional commentary right now. I'd like to get some feedback on what you see.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Glenolden Park, Another View, alla prima oil painting

Glenolden Park, Glenolden, PA
In my last blog post about plein air alla prima painting, I spoke of the frustration that I felt as I struggled with my initial experience painting outdoors. Fortunately, as the day went on, I felt my groove come back and this piece came together better.

Unlike my previous piece, this view has a much stronger sense of space with subtle yet definite demarcations leading your eye back into space. The colors aid that perspective as well, much more successfully than my first plein air painting.

The intensity of the pale green leaves on the bush in the front isn't as intense in this photo as it is in my original painting, but you get a sense of its "bushiness" which was my intent.

I also let go and explored more active brushstrokes as I rendered this piece. I think the top of the painting, where the brushwork is most active, is balanced well with the smooth grassy areas. It would have been interesting to see how the composition would "read" if I were to moderate my brushwork so that smaller brushstrokes detailed the background and larger, bolder ones were reserved for the foreground.

Lastly, I more earnestly pushed the use of cool colors in the background to moderate the sense of space as your eye moves from foreground to middle ground to background. As I rendered the overall composition, I became more aware of the importance of seeing what was in front of me and then tweaking specific areas of it to focus the viewer's attention.

When I submit my third (and final painting) from the weekend, I will also take time to address how this plein air experience will impact my teaching high school art. So, check back. I encourage your comments.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Glenolden Park, alla prima oil painting

Glenolden Park, Glenolden, PA
As I indicated in my previous blog post, I took a plein air workshop over the Memorial Day weekend. The painting at right was my first of the weekend. I met the instructor, Fred Kaplan, and the rest of my fine group at Glenolden Park in Glenolden, PA.

This was my first foray into the outdoors to paint and I have to admit that I found it initially unnerving. I've been used to the controlled lighting within a studio environment. On top of that, I have not painted in months so I was resting on my previous experience to get me through. (That was a poor choice for many reasons which I'm not going to pursue at this moment.)

In addition to gaining some experience in outdoor landscape painting, the other primary purpose of this weekend for me was to rekindle my spirits after this month's difficulties at my high school teaching job. Sadly, I found myself bordering on despair as I struggled to find my grove while working on this painting.

Overall, this is not a successful piece for a few reasons. First, there is significant value confusion going on. The background doesn't recede properly and the shapes in the distance aren't resolved well. Part of the issue is that the middle ground is somewhat nebulous. The foreground fairs better though the tree on the left is too dark and lacking in interest. The piece was painted around 11:00 and I feel a sense of light but not the degree that I should (having been there and experienced it).

I'm going to rework this piece to experiment on strategies to resolve the tensions I see in the painting. I'll repost it after I make the changes.

I'll post my second painting (and commentary) tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Plein Air Painting Workshop

I took a plein air painting workshop this past weekend in Pennsylvania with local artist, Fred Kaplan. The class was offered through the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

Sadly, I have been out of things for over a month. Go figure, you set up plans for yourself to schedule time to paint and establish short-term and long-term goals only to be sidelined right from the get-go. With the end of the year fast approaching, my responsibilities at school sapped much of my energies and when you add the wifey and kids, well, I just didn't have much of anything left for my art.

So, I had high hopes for this painting workshop. I'll be posting photos and discussing what transpired in my next post.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Classes for the Summer

In my previous post, I listed some short-term goals. One of those goals was to find a class over the summer. Well, I believe I found two. I'm not sure if I'll be taking both, but we'll see. Educational funding is tight right now for schools in NJ. They're both weekend workshops running 9-5 and cost $195 which isn't bad.

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is offering an Introduction to Landscape Painting course towards the end of May with Frederic Kaplan that sounds interesting. I also like the looks of a Monotype Workshop with Lisa Hamilton that is in mid-June. I've not taken classes with either of these instructors so that will be a new experience.

Taking continuing education classes is one of my most favorite things. I wish I could do it more often.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Goals, Accountability and Progress

I mentioned previously that I have been reading Eric Maisel's book Creativity for Life: Practical Advice on the Artist's Personality, and Career from America's Foremost Creativity Coach. Because of this and other readings, I have put together a simple list of short- and long-term goals for myself regarding my art production. I feel I needed to post this to be held accountable on some level and to provide an avenue of feedback from those of you who have traveled this path before.

Here's what I've developed so far. I think it's fair to say that I'll be moving additional goals (probably more short-term ones) onto my list as they get crossed off.

Short-Term Goals                               
  1. Use sketchbook regularly to record thoughts, inspiration and painting ideas
    This seems rather straightforward for an artist, but I know I need to be more disciplined about taking it with me everywhere.
  2. Paint at least 3 times per week
    This goal is a biggie and something I've been procrastinating about for far too long. I know once I get into the groove I'll exceed my 3 times per week. My suspicion is that I'm afraid of making this commitment, but I know it's essential to get where I want to be.
  3. Collect/Purchase items for still life paintings   
    I have some things already planned. I just want to have more items on hand. I've taken a lot of stuff into school so I'll need to bring some of it home.
  4. Gather personal photos for paintings
    I have a few photos I want to use as resources for pieces I have been wanting to do for a while now. I'm going to start a filing system.
  5. Find and attend local arts group
    I need to research this some more for my locale.
  6. Find and sign up for class over summer (funding permitting)
    Funding is a big concern here. My hope is that I can get my school to foot the bill. Though, with the cuts made in State funding, purses are tight.
Long-Term Goals
  1. Paint 50 small canvases by January 1, 2011 (39 weeks as of 04.04.10)
    I think this is a manageable goal. Time will tell.
  2. Post paintings for sale (ebay and etsy)
    I believe I have these accounts set up. Does anybody have recommendations for which is better, easier, more reliable, etc.?
  3. Sell at least 50% of my inventory by January 1, 2011
    I can't comment on this one since I need to develop more of an inventory.
  4. Find alternate venues for selling my inventory (art fairs, craft shows, community arts shows)
    This goal requires research on what's available.
Instead of listing them as a straight list of 10 goals, I decided to break them out as short- and long-term so I could hang them up on my wall and cross them off as they are completed or sufficiently routinized. I want to avoid feeling overwhelmed since I'm given to that when I've got a schedule hanging over my head. I will post a progress report at the beginning of each month (again, for accountability).

Thoughts on my lists?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Christ the Lord is Risen Today

The Resurrection, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1635
On this beautiful day when Christians celebrate the resurrection of their Savior, I'd like to recommend you take a moment and enjoy the wonderful works of art that have been created commemorating this event.

I recently heard a woman on the radio chastising Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias for believing in something like the resurrection when the four gospel accounts were so contradictory. The apologist amply answered her protest.

For those who have similar concerns about the validity of the resurrection accounts as recorded in the four Gospels, I encourage you to read this harmony of the resurrection accounts.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Book Review: Creative Time and Space, Making Room for Making Art by Rice Freeman-Zachery

I was reading an interview on Empty Easel with Rice Freeman-Zachery and it prompted me to buy her book: Creative Time and Space. Visually, the book does a fabulous job of showcasing the featured artists’ work. As for the content, I found myself wanting more.

The author, Rice Freeman-Zachery, weaves her own thoughts amid the mish-mash of anecdotal references by the featured artists on the various chapter topics:
  1. Exploring Time
  2. Making Time
  3. Corralling Time
  4. Stuck in Time
  5. Jumpstarting Time
  6. Mental Space
  7. Soul Space
  8. Real Space
  9. Creative Habits
  10. Taking It on the Road
The book is for those who are struggling with “making room for making art.” Rice includes little exercises in the form of “Try This” boxes to help you explore your own ideas about why you are where you are artistically and how to jump-start your passion for your art to get your back on track.

There is so much about this book that I wanted to like but much of it I had heard before. Surely, there is quite a bit here that is grounded in practicality, which just goes to show you why the reviews on Amazon were all positive. The author’s style is very warm and engaging. You cannot help but feel her passion and desire to motivate you.

However, what disappointed me was the fact that the Empty Easel interview, 10+ Ways to Make Time for Your Art, more clearly addressed what I needed to hear than the 171-page book. I expect an article that references a book to whet my appetite for the full-course meal that the book will provide me when I read it.

My Top 10 From Creative Time and Space

  1. Take a notebook/sketchbook with you everywhere. As Freeman-Zachery puts it so well, “Writing down ideas reinforces the value of creative thinking and encourages your brain to spend more time in creative mode.”
  2. Set studio boundaries so my creative time is seen as important to me (and others)
  3. Cut down on Web surfing and devote my time to painting
  4. Stop (or severely cut back on) watching TV since it easily and needlessly sucks up my evenings
  5. Consider implementing a schedule for myself (some of the featured artists’ schedules encouraged me, others were overwhelming)
  6. Write out my goals (both short-term and long-term)
  7. Make a studio-efficiency list as I work that could make my next studio experience more enjoyable
  8. Make a list of things that inspire me and when a rut hits, revisit it
  9. Make a list of what attracts me and/or scares me about my art; then take steps to work through that list
  10. Use my head-space as well as my studio space to infuse both thoughtful and spontaneous creativity throughout as much of my day as possible
You’ll notice in my list, time management plays a key role (see #2-7 above). In fact, that is really the crux of the matter and so the first half of the book is devoted to giving the reader strategies.

Rice (and a few of her featured artists) strongly recommends journaling. I have not made time for this and haven’t felt it to be a detriment. Who knows, you may find it essential. There were other pieces of advice throughout the book but I just didn’t find them compelling. They seemed more fluffy than substantial. Of course, we are all individuals and such little bits of esoterica may inspire you towards productivity.

The chapter on your studio—Real Space—was probably one of my favorites because I loved hearing about the variety of places these professionals did their work. I found it very encouraging since I just cleaned out a small space in our bedroom to work. (I’ll try to post on how that is working out for me in the near future.)

Well, that’s my take on Rice Freeman-Zachery’s Creative Time and Space. I can’t say I would definitely purchase this book again BUT I would have taken it out of the library and documented what I found that was practical.  (3 1/2 Stars out of 5)