In May next year I have the pleasure of tutoring on a painting holiday in the beautiful Cotswolds region of the UK. This exciting holiday is provided through Alpha Painting Holidays.
WHEN? 8th -12th May 2022
WHERE? We will paint in a variety of beautiful Cotswolds villages including Lacock, Castle Combe and Biddestone.
Bradford-on-Avon is near to the hotel and we will paint around this historic town and also we have access to places such as Corsham, Nunney with its castle and the famous Caern Hill locks on the Kennet and Avon Canal. There really is no shortage of places to paint and sketch!
THE HOTEL Leigh Park Country House Hotel & Vineyard, is located in the picturesque town of Bradford on Avon, near Bath. Set in five acres of landscaped gardens, overlooking the picturesque Wiltshire Downs, Leigh Park is a classical Georgian country house hotel with charm, character and a subtle elegance.
I was looking through Google images the other day for paintings by the Impressionists and came across the work of Gustave Caillebotte. He is not as famous as some of the others like Monet or Cezanne or Manet, but his work really caught my eye. Why? Because of the strong and sometimes strange compositions.
Take a look at this painting below, Paris Street, Rainy Day (1877), where he seems to break the rules of “good” composition.
As you probably know you should never divide your painting into quarters, but this is exactly what Caillebotte does here. And somehow he makes it work, even though it makes for a slightly unsettling image. He then further subdivides the picture with repeated vertical lines and some very angular triangles. The whole image is a design. It has not happened by accident, but unlike many other artists who worked to a design, he breaks the rules. I suppose his fellow Impressionists were also breaking the rules at that time, but in different ways.
Now look at the painting below, The House Painters (1877), where he keeps to the rules but exaggerates them. Your eye is almost forced to run towards the vanishing point at the end of the road by the strong and unbroken straight lines. And again he has used repeated vertical lines to divide up the image, and added a few of those triangles as well.
Once again in this painting, Le Pont de l’Europe (1876) he has used the same devices – an overpoweringly strong pull towards the vanishing point, repeated verticals and triangles.
And even in this painting, Portraits à la campagne (1876) you can see the same design strategy. In fact if you look him up on Google images you will find that many of his paintings followed these rules.
So, was he breaking the rules or making new rules? What do you think? Let us know in the comments!
A year ago yesterday I published the Kindle version of my book, Look at That! Discover the Joy of Seeing by Sketching.
Two days later, a year ago tomorrow, the paperback version became available.
In the last 12 months, 3,353 copies have sold worldwide through Amazon, and a smaller total (harder to calculate) have sold through private and online bookstores. It’s been a #1 Best Seller in 4 categories for several months in a row, and ranks in the current top 1% of all Kindle book sales.
Those of you who know me know how amazed and grateful I am. This book was little more than a hair-brained idea 18 months ago, a thorn in my side 13 months ago, and a great relief off my back 12 months ago.
This time last November I was more relieved than excited, I knew I’d done my best, and had no idea…
Please don’t miss out on this amazing offer. This is the sixth year I have collaborated with this Art Bundle, and together we have raised US$81,654 for the charity Courageous Kitchen so far.
In this year’s Bundle you will have access to over $5000 worth of art courses and other resources on topics like watercolour painting, art journaling, sketching, mixed media, gouache, acrylic painting, oil painting, stencils, collage, pastel pencils, coloured pencils, stamp carving, and much more all bundled together for one amazing low price – just $97.
This is an genuine opportunity to get more than 100 art resources from 85 different artists (including me!) at such a low price. With so many products, it works out to less than $1 per course! The courses are not time limited, so you can access them whenever you want for as long as you want.
I’ve been playing around with easel and pochade designs for many years, always looking for the perfect set-up. And I think I may now have found it.
The ones you can buy online are no doubt very sturdy and useable but for many of us they are just too expensive. You can easily pay hundreds of dollars for a professionally made easel. I actually enjoy designing and making boxes and easels, so it’s been no hardship to search for a cheaper and possibly better solution. The easel I have finally settled upon is suitable for watercolour, acrylic or gouache painting and sketching outdoors. It is lightweight, very portable (it folds away flat), and quick to set up and pack away.
Take a look at this video to see it in action:
If you would like to make one, then I have a pdf you can download from here:
I don’t know about you, but I love watching Youtube videos. There are so many great artists out there, putting up videos for free and helping you and I to learn how to paint, or simply to enjoy watching them paint.
There are also some channels that are not so great. I personally don’t like videos that spend the first ten minutes talking about what they had for breakfast, or walking endlessly in search of a spot to paint. I like it when they get straight to the action. Perhaps I am just impatient, but I just want to see someone painting and teaching me something I didn’t know before. I want to get better, faster, as Chris Fornataro says.
Talking of which, he is the first on my list of six. This list is by no means the end of the story, but I want to introduce you to each one of them because they are my go-to favourite channels. Perhaps I can help you to home in on what I think are the best of the best. They are in no particular order – all of them are good! Some paint in oils, some in gouache, some en plein air, and some are helpful in whatever medium you work in. I hope you find them useful. Click on their names to go to their YouTube channels.
Fast talking oil painter Chris Fornataro covers a multitude of techniques and ideas in these information packed videos. If you want to learn the basics of oil painting then you couldn’t do better than to start here.
I first came across Ian Roberts when I bought his book Mastering Composition about 7 or 8 years ago. Then last year I found his YouTube channel and immediately subscribed. His insights about composition and structure, tone and colour are so very helpful, and he uploads a video about once a week. These has helped me to rethink the way I paint. He is very easy to listen to and watch, and there is no waffle!
If you like watching people paint en plein air, then Michael Chamberlain is really worth a go. He lives near San Francisco and often paints the coastline or cityscapes in oils, and he is just easy to watch. You learn without realising you are learning. At times he does throw in a short section of surfing or eating burritos, but his videos are usually pithy and to the point. He makes me want to get the plein air kit and head outside!
Lena Rivo paints gorgeous gouache, acrylic and oil paintings, sometimes en plein air and sometimes in the studio. Usually there is no commentary, but I just like watching her paint and I love the end product. She is just very good at what she does.
If you have not yet come across James Gurney, then where have you been? He is the master of plein air gouache and casein painting. His videos are entertaining, informative and he is a master of the sketchbook. He can paint anything and make it look great – even the dullest of scenes become stunning in his hands. Look out for his creative opening title sequences!
This one is just for the fun of it. Philip Mould is an art dealer in London and a presenter on the TV programme Fake or Fortune where they find out if unknown paintings are in fact masterpieces. During lockdown he started to produce a series of YouTube videos about the paintings he has in his house, which may sound dull until you see them and hear his explanations about how they came to be painted and the stories behind them. He understands great art. He understands the why’s and how’s and who’s of painting. A joy to watch, to marvel at, and to be inspired by some of the great artists of the past. Delightful and charming. Relax, sit back and enjoy.
Please use the comments box here to let us know who are your favourite art YouTubers.
And finally, I have my own YouTube channel. Maybe not as grand as some of these others, but I’d love you to subscribe to it and see what I’m up to!
Last year I bought and read the book “Spring Cannot be Cancelled” by David Hockney and Martin Gayford. It is a wonderful and easy read and is largely conversations and thoughts about painting and art in general. David Hockney was locked down in his farmhouse in France during the Covid outbreak and spent his time drawing and painting there (much of it on an iPad). The book is gentle, humorous, and full of insights and thought-provoking ideas about what art is and how to do it. I kept thinking – “Wow, I never saw it that way before!”
One thing that I had never thought about was the way that you can use a painting to tell a story through time. You can use it to lead the viewer on a journey, either through a landscape or through time. This is exactly what happens in the Bayeux Tapestry that depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England.
Martin Gayford writes, ‘It is a picture that is almost seventy metres long and half a metre high (and more than nine hundred years old) that lacks what he (Hockney) has long yearned to escape: those neat edges that confine the conventional rectangular picture frame. He points out that at the bottom is the ground, the top is the sky, and, as you walk along from one end to the other, two years of time pass.‘
He also says that ‘it has a different relationship to space and time. There is no fixed point for a single linear perspective to recede towards, no frozen moment. Instead, it flows backwards and forwards from England to Normandy, across the sea and through the unfolding events from 1064 to 1066.’ Now that to me is a great piece of art!
David Hockney created a similar, but much smaller, time travelling drawing of his gardens in France. He used just a few colours and plenty of dots and stripes to convey his message in a sketchbook consisting of a single sheet of paper that opens out like a concertina.
‘Hockney’s panoramic concertina drawings of his garden are smaller in scope, both in territory and time, but they include several acres of ground spreading to all points of the compass, and the length in seconds, minutes, or hours that it takes to look hard at all that.’
A journey through time
When I read this my artistic world suddenly opened up. I had always thought of paintings being a moment frozen in time – a bit like the creative version of a photograph. Here is the landscape as I saw it, here is a still life as it was. There is no sense of time, apart from the one moment captured in paint. But now here was the possibility of creating art that took you on a journey through time.
I thought I would have a go. So I made myself a little concertina book and took a small selection of coloured brush pens, and went outside to take a trek down the garden path. Here’s a short video showing you how it worked out.
I am falling in love with gouache paint. That may sound like a strange thing to say, but I think it’s true! Over the years I have painted in acrylics, oils and watercolour, and each in their turn have their positives and negatives.
Acrylics dry fast, which can be a good or a bad thing (good in a wet country like the UK, and bad where I now live in the dry heat of Spain). They also darken quite a bit as they dry and I have found this a little awkward, with paintings turning out darker than I imagined. Oils on the other hand dry very slowly, which I don’t really mind. I use water mixable oils which dry a bit faster than traditional oils, but you still need to wait several weeks before varnishing and framing. However their colour and tone do not change when they dry – what you paint is what you get. Watercolours produce a wonderful transparent glow and can have great accidental and unplanned effects. But the technique of using them is difficult and you need to plan well before putting brush to paper.
So this is where gouache paints come in. For someone like me who paints more instinctively than thoughtfully, who dashes in with a brush rather than preparing carefully beforehand, these paints are like magic! Because they are opaque you can cover over anything that you have already painted, and you can paint light over dark as well as dark over light. You can paint thin transparent passages and also flat opaque areas, thereby giving your paintings more interest. They have many of the advantages of oils without the slow drying time. So what drawbacks are there to gouache paints? I would suggest that they are not good for large paintings – I use them in my sketchbook, as their quick drying time makes them perfect for plein air. I am going to experiment with larger paintings by gradually increasing in size to see how far I can go, but I am assuming that over a certain size they will become too expensive to use. But that’s where oils can take over.
I have found that gouache is great for sketching outdoors, and I recently went out to film myself doing this. Take a look if you would like to here – its on YouTube: https://youtu.be/djZCz1cpJ8M
Have you heard of Inktober? I have come across it every October for the past few years, advertised on the internet and in magazines etc.. But until now I have never taken part. I’m about to change that.
So, what is Inktober?
Here’s what the founder says on his Inktober website (which by the way is really helpful and contains ideas on how to draw and use ink, along with prompts and ideas to keep you motivated during the drawing challenge). Here’s what he says;
Jake Parker created Inktober in 2009 as a challenge to improve his inking skills and develop positive drawing habits. It has since grown into a worldwide endeavor with thousands of artists taking on the challenge every year.
And you and I can join in! All you need to do is the following: 1) Make a drawing in ink (you can do a pencil under-drawing if you want).
2) Post it. Post it on any social media account you want or just post it on your refrigerator. The point is to share your art with someone. 🙂
3) If you are posting online, then Hashtag it with #inktober and #inktober2021
Note: you can do it daily, or go the half-marathon route and post every other day, or just do the 5K and post once a week. Whatever you decide, just be consistent with it. Inktober is about growing and improving and forming positive habits, so the more you’re consistent the better.
That’s it! Now go make something beautiful.
So, how about it? Are you ready for the challenge? I am. It starts on October 1. That’s tomorrow.
If you like you can use my Facebook page Painting Posts to post your inky artwork. I’ll show mine there.