Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Design and Color Harmony

There are three basic shapes within oil painting that must be rendered; the triangle, square and circle and these must be placed within the painting . It can be ordinary and boring or unusual and exciting. In my art class at Lincoln Hills, we discussed these shapes and how to explore moving them around to optimize interest. Also, color harmony was discussed and I presented poor harmony and good harmony so students would understand each one and correct it if poor. Analogous are those schemes whose layout upon the color wheel are adjacent to one another. A second type of harmony comes from complimentary, either with primary or secondary colors. The former being red, yellow and blue while the latter being green, purple and orange. An example of unusual shapes and harmony can be seen the painting to the right. (Casino from Bell Tower, 12x16). Notice large simple shapes, not tons of detail and the harmony is primarily orange blue with tinges of green purple. A similar harmory color scheme can be seen in my favorite impressionist of early California, Franz Bischoff. Being a student of art history can be rewarding in many ways; you don't have to reinvent the wheel every time you paint. Learn how William Wendt or Edgar Payne handles a certain subject matter. Note the shapes and colors. You simply have to put a contemporary twist and your own style into the painting and bang--you are done. The best paintings use simple shapes and have just one idea. Ask yourself, what is it you are trying to say and say it loud. Most people need street signs in viewing a painting. Have a lead in, middle area that is interesting and a sky area or other neutral where the viewer can rest. Next discussion, abstraction as a way to view art work.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Painting Still Lifes

I have regarded still lifes as special in so many ways. Simplicity, eloquent, intimate, tender would be the adjectives I attach to this domain. First, I must credit my recent class from Sun City in Roseville, as these paintings evolved from demonstrating my technique. In the first painting, (Lemons and Pears, 12x16) I have centered the mass to the left, angled the fruit up, to the left. Good design is a function of line, movement, mass distribution, good color harmony (among other things too numerous to mention here). The yellow and orange pull out the color from the ground plane which was black, (very neutral) but with strong color shapes, the complimentary automatically comes out as you squint and guess what color should go in there. Also note the shadows on the bottom edge of the fruit to model the round edges turning in and under and the "lost edge " on the cloth to the middle right. Such touches add mystery and painterly qualities (so does a big brush, 8, and 10's). Don't tickle it to death. Make big, commited strokes and use lots of paint.

The floral on the right (Spring Boquet, 18x24) was fun and exciting to paint. Notice how I have exaggerated the lean from lower left to upper right. This creates tension, movement, and dynamism; qualities to have in a good painting. Each flower is modeled in less detail than the star flower ( the one designed to grab your attention) in successive fashion. The shadow side is constructed from graying and darkening all my colors and highlighting the light side on the right. Bear in mind at all times the direction of the light, always modeling three values; dark, mid, and light tones. The flowers pop because I have a neutral background via a blend of greys. They are warm but toned down to allow the flowers to jump out. The dark cool colored vase sets off the entire arrangement. Always ask yourself, "do I have warms and cools, darks and lights, forward and backward movement."? These will guide you to produce an exciting, successful painting!! Thanks to all you devoted students at Sun City, Roseville for your hard work. It helps me become motivated and strive for excellence. Check back to this blog for more posts on technique in the future. Learning is a function of review and practice.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

How to Paint Nocturns

Painting at night, so called nocturns, can produce some of the most beautiful art work. Colors come out of nowhere are can be wonderful or catastrophic. The best way is to use a headlamp like miners wear. These wrap around your head and cast a light on your palette. The new ones with LED light technology are very good, well balanced. You must also know your color placement by heart in case you can't see well enough to dab the right color paint. A street lamp is sometimes useful but you can't count on it. The painting seen on the right is Carmel mission Nocturn. Sometimes I get up at 4 in the morning and paint so the colors can be very interesting. Good painting is good observation so it is important to capture light bouncing off the ground and close up on the wall toward the right hand side. These strong transitions make for interest and help invite the viewer into the rest of the painting. Notice also the cool greys to the left of the figures. These contrast well with the yellow light. Probably most famous for his nocturns is western cowboy artist Frank Tenny Johnson who blended cool greens and blues over yellow ochre and had drama; perhaps one small window that was cad yellow, the other 99% in cool greens and blues. Orchestrate your paintings to make one simple statement. For other plein air tips, see my friend Ed Terpening who has an excellent blog on all sorts of things in the plein air scene. The nocturn below was painted at Monterey and the pink boat against the green building provided a colorful red green contrast. I painted this about 9pm after dinner and a couple of beers. (Alcohol provided extra courage.) But note how all the boats point into the painting, keeping interest in the middle of the painting. The one in the right hand corner acts as a lead in to the strong light in the upper left corner. The colors are so much fun but the values must hold togther--that is make sense and read correctly. Once that happens, you can place any color you want.
In the example below by Frank Tenney Johnson, cool greys and blue greens are the primary colors. Very subdued yet the figure jumps out in contrast. Using a wash underneath the painting helps with harmony and keeps his value structure in tact such as yellow ochre or ult. blue. Hope this helps. Paint outside and practice. You can also work from memory but it is more difficult.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


The Figure evokes different feelings and thoughts and has been a subject of mine for many years. My favorite figure painters are James Singer Sargent and Juaqin Sorolla. I loved the loose yet accurate rendition by these master painters. Also, especially in Mia in Light (posted in this blog) is the light and how the clothing helps the light to flow down throughout the painting. I did this last week with friends in Sacramento who meet once per week. I also enjoyed painting the window in cool light from the right, thanks to my friend Rob Sandidge who has mentored me for ten years. The mauves and blues in the shadow side of the dress were also challenging.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Future Shows

In April, I will be at West Portal in south San Francisco the 3rd, then Menlo Park the 17th, 18, and 19 and on May 3rd I will be in Saratoga. Also, Carmel art festival will be 14th thru the 17th of May with 70 of the best painters in the state. That is always a hoot. I went painting out with my friend Frank Ordaz who did a wonderful job of No hands bridge. I am also doing a large figurative painting from a scene in Italy at Cinque Terra with a priest and crucifix. Rather somber piece but I liked the red robe of the priest so had to paint it. The painting on the right is of Tuscany where the poppies grow everywhere. This is about 30 miles north of Sienna in the countryside. Very beautiful and scenes to paint abundant.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Silvio's Corner Latest from Artist Silvio Silvestri

What is Happening? Silvio just returned from the Coast after five days of painting. A brief trip resulted in some interesting art from Santa Barbara to points north including carmel, san luis obispo, and Monterey. The results are new paintings posted in my website at The ocean was very smooth, leading to colors in the water I rarely see. The reflections and green grass were brightly lit. Also, have continued my work from Italy where poppies were abundant and farm houses picturesque. I have been back for 7 months and am still perfecting my technique on rendering the distant hills. Tuscany has got to be one of the most incredible places on earth. Finally, the eastern sierra, Mammoth lakes area always draws my attention. The painting above is below Bishop showing descending light as it flows over the crest. To paint this beauty is such a gift and I hope this inspires you.