Demonstration on Glazing

For this demonstration I worked on the same painting for many rounds in a short period of time.  That is why I chose acrylics because it dries fast and you can see all the differences.

What is a glaze?

It is when you use a painting medium of choice with pigment to do a wash across a painted surface.  Do not use white because it is opaque.  For example:  you might use Professional Walnut Oil for glazing with oils or use acrylic matt medium for glazing with acrylics.  The choice of medium is determined by the way in which you like to move paint, change it’s viscosity and like the finished look of.  There are so many to choose from. In the demo I used  Acrylic Matt Medium, Acrylic Gloss Medium,  Gloss gel and varnish.

Why do a Glaze?

It can add a color to an area that is subtle and you don’t have to go about repainting that whole area, it can soften edges and doing a lot of layers,  it can defuse colors and create a more atmospheric look.

When to do a Glaze?

When you want to change a large and general  and it would be more efficient to do it with a glaze, or you are just about finished and just need to do a subtle change, or you want your piece to feel more atmospheric, soft and have more depth – yes it creates more a sense of depth.  You can do it at the end or throughout.

When glazing the surface should be dry, which means for acrylics you can go ahead relatively soon, same day.  But with oils, you might have to wait almost a week for thorough drying.  And with oils you must make sure your layer underneath the glaze is thinner in texture and the fat content is thinner then what you are putting on top, otherwise you will end up with cracking.  You can look this up on Ralf Mayor’s Materials and Techniques.  This is the artist bible for materials information.

You can see in  my demo how subtle some changes are and then I got feisty and put too much pigment in and really changed it.  But it certainly changes the look and the feel of the paint.

Hope I answered some questions.

Happy Painting.

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Drawing With Color Class


Sold, Blender-Oil Pastel-22X30

Welcome students to a great semester of using a variety of drawing media.  The first class we discussed the syllabus and supplies.  This coming Monday night we will work with dry/chalk pastels, chamois, soft vine charcoal, kneaded eraser on grey Canson paper.

I will provide a still life set up.  If you would prefer your own please do.  Just don’t forget an extension cord and light to illuminate your subject.

We will work on our still life for two weeks and then move on.

Looking forward. Syllabus below as well as supply list.

Syllabus:  Two weeks, dry/chalk pastel – still life, two weeks, oil pastel – Animal Portrait, two weeks, colored pencil – human portrait, two weeks, water base colored pencil – landscape and last week your choice of material and subject matter.

Supply List:

Drawing board and white paper pad

small sets:

colored pencil

waterbase colored pencils (could use these for regular colored pencils)

chalk pastel (Alpha pastel is a really cheep and affordable brand)

oil pastel

metal pallet knife or Xacto knife

gum, kneaded erasers and chamois (toilet paper will work fine)

All Papers are optional, (you can use just plain white drawing paper if you like)

One sheet BFA Rives paper (white) = two drawings, cut paper in 1/2

One sheet grey Canson paper

one sheet of smooth bristle paper or smooth velum

masking tape

Acrylic Matt Medium or something similar like:  Modge Podge will work too.


A Sojourn: Painting In Maine


Every year I head up to Maine this time of year to paint.  I love the early fall light, the cool air and the fact that there are few people here now.  I have been fortunate to be at quite a few locations in the past years. I’ve been coming up for, I think 20 years.  I’ve had generous student’s offer their summer homes to me to use at a variety of locations.  One long time place was Swan’s Island, then Brooklin and now Deer Isle.  This week is a rental for more time in Stonington, ME.

I am in my second week here figuring out the many landscapes/seascapes that this area provides. There is so much diversity in such a small area.  There is a beautiful lily pond, a luscious red International 1963 red vehicle in a field against the roses fields and blue/green ocean.  And here above is more the typical scene of what we expect of Maine…the little island in the ocean…reflections and all.

I commit myself to doing two paintings per day.  I get out by 8:30 and return around 4-5.  Hopefully with two finished fast paintings.  I love the letting go and process of painting fast and furiously.  I try my best not to judge and let the information flow into and thru me.

Sadly this year, I am a little stuck. Every year I  give myself a problems to solve as a goal and project.  This year I took on quite a few multiple projects at once and perhaps I overwhelmed myself.

The Stuck part, is I am not painting with a deliberate application.  I am second guessing my decisions.  Why I don’t know except for the issues I set up for myself.  Today was the first day I felt like I have a little break thru.  I always tell my students never second guess yourself.  Often times the first decision is your strongest, when you paint quick and short paintings like this.

What are the problems I proposed to myself?  #1 Smooth oil based primed white bass wood board as a painting surface, Gamblin non toxic gel and big surfaces to paint on, then I am used to painting outside quickly on.  Got a lot of space to cover in a short period of time.  And the surface is slimy.

Why do this?  Because we all need a creative push every once in a  while to make sure we do  not fall into a rut.  Embracing challenges is good.  But is it too much of a good thing?  or Torment?  I will let you know on Friday, when my paint vacation is over with and I am heading back home to a fall season of teaching away.

I dare you challenge yourself!




Color & Light Class at the Ryan Estate

Every new semester I come up with problem solving class to help my students develop their technical abilities in paint.  In addition student’s will further discover who they are as  painters, what their style might be.  The class will study other painters artwork as well as each others.

I teach mostly all level classes which I think all  students benefit from.  The new ones see where their work can develop to.  The seasoned students tend to forget some of the needed basics.  I always liked the fact that famous musicians still sit down and play the scales. We all need that structure to keep our skills strong to express our visions.

I would like students to work on at least two paintings this semester.  I would like one painting on a white, well primed canvas.  By this I mean, put some extra coats of acrylic based gesso, (this is an acrylic primer that is coated on the canvas to seal off the surface).  This will make your painting experience much easier and more pleasureful.  You can do this the first class, if you have never done this before.  The second painting, I would like to have that surface painted in a bright color, i.e.:  orange, red, pink.  Both surfaces have a huge impact on how we perceive color and how light responds to a colored painted surface.  This will help us dive into the exploration of color and light.  White canvas first class.

The subject matter will be up to the individual.  I will set up an elaborate set up for those  who would like a given subject matter.  If you choose to work from a photo, please make a black and white copy as well as versions of the color copy.  Don’t forget to bring in a sketch pad to help study your subject matter as well as designing it.

We will address color mixing, layering of color and its chemistry.  What makes a painting glow and another look flat?   I will demonstrate some glazing techniques that can be used and applied to creating more depth in a painting.

I hope this helps to guide you into our fall class.  I am looking forward.



Oil Pastel verses Chalk Pastels

Here are two examples of the use of pastel.  This first demo is of oil pastel.  It is similar to watercolor in that the medium is translucent and you must save your lights.  If you loose your lights you can scrap them back out or  coat them with Acrylic Medium to make a dry spot to put on more.  Oil pastels are greasy, so you have to go slow in your application.  I work on BFK Rives printmaking paper.

The second demo which is listed under Chalk Pastel is applied light to dark and bright to dull.  These cover easily and white is extremely opaque.  Work up to mixing the colors on the surface and get rich colors going from the beginning.  I work on the brand Canson gray paper…the opposite side of what looks like rough.


Working with Chalk Pastel

A Demonstration of dry hard pastel on paper.
This is a photo of the still life that I am creating a pastel of. I only work from life not from the photo. Photos tend to be limited in color and it is hard to perceive the edges of the forms unless working from life. After doing numerous sketches and studies and also rearranging the still life to get a successful composition, I am ready to start the drawing.


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A Successful Still Life

Milk Bottles - oil on canvas- 46X28

Rules in creating an effective still life painting or drawing.
Here is a list of things that I think about when planning out my still life.

1. Always use odd numbers of objects.

2. It is not just about the objects, it is about where they are located, (the background) and where the light is coming from.

3. Pick three different size objects.

4. Design the background like you are putting on a play with a stage.

5. Horizontal and vertical lines stagnate the design, keep with diagonals.

6. Pick objects that are harmonious with each other. Either similar or complimentary, as if you were going to wear them tonight to the ball.

7. Do not use dull object with one brightly colored object, particularly if that bright object is really big, it will take over the painting.

8. Do three sided crops if you are going to crop at all.

9. Do not crop thing in halves, awkward.

10. When designing, draw the flow of the objects..not the objects themselves. How do you want the eye to move around the space. This is achieved by sharp edges, bright color notations, descriptiveness, etc. Tell me what you want me to look at first, second third..etc.

11. Do not put objects in the middle unless that is what you want.

12. Do not put objects equal distant from each other or grouped in the middle.

13. Pick objects that are your own and unique. Bottles, fruit and other subject has been done over and over. If you choose them, pick something unique about it. Unique Eye level, cut them up, break them into pieces something to make it your own.

14. Get personal with the objects. See them as figures in a room. See how they relate or don’t relate to each other, play with the idea that they could be people in a room.

15. Do you thumb nails to figure out how to package your composition with strength right from the beginning. You won’t get it to work well later.  If a composition isn’t working within 15 minutes…it is not going to work.

16. Change the set up around as you work to make it better…subtle changes.

17. Don’t paint the object in. Get the drawing issues out of the way and start using the paint to represent areas or color, value, texture, idea. Don’t save an outline, it won’t help the painting.

I hope this helps all my students with their visual thinking. Look at others, how they set up their still lives and figure out what they are doing…so much to learn.

Happy Painting.

Supporting the Creative Process

Creamers, Oil on Canvas, 12X36I was asked by a student to create a list of ideas that encourage the creative process. I can only speak for myself on what helps me focus and get into my own artwork. Being creative, doing a piece of artwork that is worth while is all about the creative process. If the process is effective the end result will be good. You can’t “make a good” painting/drawing. It has to come through experience, focus, intension and hard work. Here is my list in two parts:


Starting a painting:

Still Life:  I’ve collected still objects for years.  The objects are unusual and  whatever seems to have something interesting to offer. Color, scale, wear and tear…something that conveys a personality. Through my collection and start to group objects on a table.

These groups become, situations which in turn become compositions. I place these objects together to tell a story. This includes what the objects are doing and where they are.  Don’t forget the background.  What kind of light source and what time of day are important factors as well.

Once I get them going, usually two of three set ups, I start to draw and also design with thumb nails. This will help to determine the size of canvas. My set ups might take a week before I know what I want or a month. When it congeals then I will then start a painting. TI move the objects and background throughout the painting to keep the rhythm of the painting happening.

When I get stuck in the painting I always return to the drawing, either in color or black and white.

Artists Block:

I usually have anywhere from two to four paintings happening at the same time. Sometimes I loose steam or interest or just plain distracted in a painting that I am working on. What do I do to get back my “MOJO”: I usually start collaging. I can work small, loose and fast and go for many different effects. It gets me seeing without the need of an absolute subject matter. This is predetermined by what collage materials I use. Another thing I will do is give myself a project. Do a study of one of the objects I am having a terrible time problem solving it’s proportions. Draw it and then paint it in a limited pallet. Still not getting motivated? Go through old failed paintings. Try to resolve their issues but drawing into them and moving ideas around. Perhaps even cut them up to see what the solution would be. If worse comes to worse, do studio prep, like cleaning brushes, priming canvas, getting supplies ready for when I am cooking.

Eventually through all of this, I find my way back and once again I am painting away, excited about my choices.

Total Artist Block with no Idea where to go next:

Do a project that will help skills in drawing, painting, technique or problem solve.

1. 50 self portraits in any medium, just do one per day. Put them away and don’t look at them until you finish 50.

2. Start a series, keep the work small. 6 paintings of pears done in different pallets. Studies of glass with different backgrounds. Paint only in black and white and yellow ochre.

3. Do one hour paintings of any subject. Put away and do 10 of them without judgement.

4. Do a series of paintings using card board scraps as your painting tools.

5.With acrylics, use different painting mediums and see how many different effects you can get out of the paint. Again, a series.

6. Paint the same subject matter in a square, circle, rectangle and keyhole. See how the composition works.

Always carry your sketch pad around with you collecting ideas from life, then you will never get artist block and you will always have something that you will want to paint.

Listings of Painting Supplies for my Classes

Oil Paint Supplies:

  • Brushes:  flats, Brights and rounds #6-16
  • Palette or Freezer Paper from grocery store
  • Paper towels or rags
  • Safflower Oil for cleaning brushes between paint strokes
  • Gamblin Solvent-Free Fluid or Gel
  • Medium Cups
  • Canvas or panels like gesso board
  • sketch pad and pencils
  • soft vine charcoal
  • metal pallet knife
  • making tape
  • plastic wrap
  • two glass jars with metal tops
  • no solvents allowed in class, clean up when you get home –  Gamsol and then finish with Murphy’s Oil soap

Recommended colors:

Titanium White, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red – both medium, Ultramarine Blue

Other colors I use:  Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Yellow Light, Quinacridone Red, Manganese Blue, Cobalt Blue, Cerulean Blue

Do not pour any oils down sink and all liquid waste and rags go home with students.  Dispose of properly.

Acrylic Paint Supplies:

  • Acrylic painting Medium of choice:  I use Liquitex Matt Medium
  • Optional:  Acrylic Gels
  • Acrylic Retarder from Liquitex Art Supplies or Open from Golden Art Supplies
  • Same Pallet, brushes, paper towels, canvas or board, masking tape, sketch pad and charcoal as above
  • spray bottle
  • paper cups and spoons
  • big container for water

Same color choices as above

Places to purchase art supplies:



Lessons, Thoughts and Other Ramblings

So many of my students have issues with understanding how to design a landscape and here I have listed some suggestions to help the understanding.

1. Make sure you have good resources: multiple images of the sight in varied colors and exposures in black and white.

2. Do you homework and pick a photo image of a place you are familiar with. Have  sketches and notes.

3. Do the thumb nail sketches. Be sure to pay attention to the division of thirds in the picture plane and don’t put anything in the middle, it is challenging enough.  One sided crops are awkward and equal distances between ideas, i.e.. trees are awkward as well.

4. Pay close attention to the mid ground.   Remember in New England that the mid ground is often times blocked but it still exists.  Make sure you acknowledge this in some visual way.  The mid ground  is were most peoples weakness lands. Design and draw as if you are drawing a diagram…it will make your understanding clearer.

5. Get a painter, who you can reference. Examine their pallet, design elements to help to develop your own.

6. Keep the design simple. Add as you go.

7. Keep the pallet limited.

Just a few ideas. Keep this blog for past and future examples

Draw Draw Draw…. This is the basis of setting up a painting.


Other Ramblings:
I was in the MFA a while back and I saw the Dutch Master Show. Really quite magnificent. Everyone should see these paintings for it’s history, beauty, skills and great subject matter. I was particularly taken with the exquisite luminous fabrics…how they were described. One portrait would have a satin black fabric and the other black velvet. And how distinctly different these fabrics were but so subtle that they were hard to study to see exactly what went on to create different illusions in paint. For one thing: the blacks are rich, sometimes flat and sometimes luminous and shinny with other colors present in them and the whites or the lace just glows and appears to be off the canvas. Lead White is an amazing rich material that we don’t have or use today.

It fills my heart to see such skill  with these painting and upsets me that we don’t value these skills today as a present day artist skills.  What ever happened to years of drawing and getting educated in the baseline skills. I studied with Robert Cormier and Paul Ingbretson of the Boston School. An excellent education. I’d recommend this to anyone.  I spent one year on a cast drawing which used to be the basic training for an artist.  And three years just studying the portrait to develop my sight skills.  That is not valued anymore.