Monday, March 20, 2017


Eric Rhoads, the publisher of Plein Air Magazine, interviews successful artists and generously provides podcasts of the chat. Well worth your time, check them out here.

A common denominator seems to emerge throughout the interviews: that "talent" is a subjective term that implies a romantic state of divine endowment. All of the artists agree that "talent" is more like disciplined hard work and persistence. They freely share their stories of hardship, uncertainty and frustration experienced on their journey to success.

The interview with artist William Davidson especially interested me. The term "thresholding" was mentioned by Eric Rhoads as "...pushing yourself to the point of discomfort and then obligating yourself to it..."

 I had to look it up.

The online Free Dictionary defines thresholding as: the magnitude or intensity that must be exceeded for a certain reaction, phenomenon, result, or condition to occur or be manifested. Hmm, I understand a pain threshold on a scale that's endured, but this description seems like a deliberate exercise to force oneself into a higher level of accomplishment, or is it enlightenment? 

Is it goal oriented? Is it a means for accelerated growth? Is it intensive self-realization?

The Sun Dance, Frederick Remington, 1909

Will it hurt?

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Lots of Luscious Oil Paints (I Still Want to Eat Them)

I love to read about other artist's working methods. It's interesting and I'll often try out some of their techniques. However, some artists are rigid about their tools and their "correct" uses. To that I say, everyone has their own methods of transferring what's creatively brewing in their brains down onto a substrate. It's an evolution through trial and error and sometimes change and necessity rule.

Here's my technical procedures after many, many years of painting:

I've had this palette longer than I've had Michael and we've been together for almost 39 years! It came with a paint box (not this one, first one fell apart) and I've taken pretty good care of it. At the end of the day I scrape off my paint mixtures and rub the oily residue to a shine with a rag. The surface has built up to a neutral sheen over many years.

The light area is where Turpenoid "Natural", ironically, took the surface off. Ugh. 

About colors: I have a lot of earth pigments because I paint thoroughbreds who are mostly variations of brown. Yeah, yeah, I know I can mix them from a few primaries (I get it) but I don't want to. The limited palette aficionados are right and I do only take a few colors when I go out to plein air paint. In the studio there are many more colors than what's pictured here but this is my basic palette. Not so limited. I sparingly add colors like the thalos when called for.

Here's a tube of Grumbacher Pre-Tested cadmium red deep that has lived in my paint box for over 25 years. Purchased at Pearl Paint which as long been defunct, it hasn't dried up a bit. Sometimes mixing a dark with cad red doesn't cut it and I go searching for this dinosaur.
I now use primarily Gamblin oils with a few Michael Harding's thrown in which are wonderful, pure pigments but quite pricey so I stick to the adequate Gamblin, a U.S.A. manufacturer. I splurge on the Harding transparent oxides that are unequaled. Lately I've been doing some experimenting with transparent pigments and building up multiple layers.

When I begin a painting session, my standard procedure is to mix up a couple of neutrals in three values. For my grays I use ultramarine blue with burnt sienna. By the way, I can't work without Burnt Sienna. How else does an equine artist achieve the copper penny glow of a chestnut? I also mix up a violet with ultramarine and Gamblin's alizarin permanent. Those are the two mixtures at the top of the photo..
When I was in art school in the mid 70's, my painting instructor, the well-respected accomplished painter David Loeffler Smith, insisted on keeping colors pure which meant using only a palette knife to mix. I still do this and you will see clean piles of paint on my palette.

By the way, I'm on my second ever palette knife, the first wore out and this one won't be with me much longer.  It's nicked, bent and could cut a steak and I'm not easily finding a replacement.

Brushes: I've been moving away from bristle brushes and using soft synthetics that I purchase at A.C. Moore for $3.99 each. Called Simply Simmons, most are firm brights and I like their smooth application and the chiseled stroke. Yes, I have several Rosemary's but I paid a whole lot more than $3.99 for them.

Pictured is a "retired" bristle #6 long flat, dented ferrule, warped and peeling handle and missing a lot of hairs. This one served me well for many years and I'm sentimental about it's valiant service for some reason (I've thrown out too many brushes to mention...they wear out eventually). It's one of the first brushes I ever bought upon entering art school. Made by a company called President which apparently no longer exists.
David Smith was also adamant about cleaning brushes with only Ivory bar soap, another habit I can't shake although the Master's Brush Cleaner is a very effective (and expensive) cleaner. It even restores brushes with dried-on paint.

Now you know about my basic tools,