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Back in Donegal

I have decided that perfect is the enemy of good, and I need to give up on the idea that I should write lengthy blogs posts, as I end up writing nothing! So here goes,

Donegal Paintings
Two grey scale paintings

One of the many great things about being back in West Donegal is that I can paint much larger paintings as my art studio is much bigger here than in Derry. So I now have two on the go!

Donegal Greyscale #1
Donegal Greyscale #1

These are both painted in acrylic paint. I find it easier to make adjustment in the value/tones in acrylic before I move onto a layer of oil as a final layer. Acrylic can act as a foundation layer for oil, but not the other way around. I had forgotten how physically tiring painting a large painting is.  My arms are tired!

Donegal Greyscale #2
Donegal Greyscale #2

 

If you want to know about Greyscaling and why I have adopted this technique since moving to Ireland please see my post “Adventures In Acrylic Paint” 

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My top tips & resources for artists

Top tips for Artists_Emma Cownie

I am sometimes asked if I hold workshops or produce intructional videos, and unfortunately, the answer is that I don’t as I am usually busy painting (and blogging). There is so much already available on the internet that I don’t feel I can compete. Others have done it better already!

So I have put together, instead,  a short list of tips and links for any one who is interested to help them develop. Please feel free to comment or suggest your own.  There are no affliate links in this blog. I have included websites and video clips that I have found personally useful.

My Top TEN TIPS

  1. Paint, paint and paint some more. The more you paint, the more your work will improve. Most artists keep a sketch book and sketch and paint in their spare moments. It is important to pratice without worrying too much about the expensive canvas you are painting.  I used to work in oil pastels  on paper  when I was younger but now I try to paint in oils most days.  I have also experimented with water colours and acrylics. It is only by doing and looking that you will develop as an artist


  2.  Look at Art. Decide what you like. Look at the works of many artists. Think about what they are doing and how they do it. You don’t have to copy them but you can be inspired by them.

    Albert Marquet, Fécamp
    Albert Marquet, Fécamp, 1906

    I particularly like pre 1950s artists  (especially post impressionists like Matisse, Marquet, Derain, Bevan, Gilman) for their use of colour and portayal of light.

    The Harbor - Great Spruce Head 1974
    Fairfield Porter The Harbor – Great Spruce Head 1974

    I also like modern American artists such as Edward Hopper Fairfield Porter, Lois Dodd, Peggi Kroll Roberts, Randall Exon, Mitchell Johnson and Jennifer Pochinski.

    Edward Hopper - Hodgkin's House, Cape Ann, Massachusetts
    Edward Hopper – Hodgkin’s House, Cape Ann, Massachusetts

    There are many fascinating interviews with artists on Savy Painter that  are well worth a listen!

    Randall Exon
    Beach House by Randall Exon, 2009

    It is important to see paintings “in the flesh too”.  Van Gogh and Monet need to be seen in real life to appreciate their scale, and how they have used the paint. I once saw a Picasso in Swansea’a Glynn Vivian Museum, and its presence quite blew me away. It was very big. I got a powerful sense of an artist who knew what he wanted to achieve and knew exactly how to do it. If I had just looked at online I would got none of that.  I save  images  of work I like on my  pinterest account.

    Picasso painting Glynn Vivian
    Someone else took a photo of the Picasso and posted it on trip advisor

  3. Paint – buy the best paint you can afford. Try out different brands. A paint may have the same name but look very different depending on the brand. Only buy Artist’s oil paints. The student version are cheaper and inferior. They are fine for underpainting only. They fade. My favourite brands include Lefranc and Bourgeois Extra Fine, Lukas 1862 Finest Artists’ Oil Colour, Sennelier Finest Artist’s Oli Colour, Talens Rembrandt Artists’ Oil Colour, Schmincke Norma Professional Artists’ Oil Colour, Michael Harding Artists’ Oil Colours.  It took me a long time to really understand what colour opacity and the transparency of paint meant in terms of my painting. I am still learning how to use this knowlege.

    Transparency-Oil-Acrylic-em
    Transparency of Oil and Acrylic paint


  4. Canvas – invest in good quality canvas.  I love linen canvas as they are really strong and hard wearing. In my early days,  I painted on cheap cotton canvases that years later would tear easily. It was quite heart breaking to realise that I had wasted my creative energy on an inferior product.

    Loxley Linen canvas (clear gesso)

    I particularly like the natural ones painted with clear gesso. If you buy the white ones, it’s helpful to paint the canvas with a coloured ground before you start painting. Here’s a excellent video on how to do it.

    Cass Art Linen canvases

    They are wonderful to paint on. UK stockists: Great Art, Cass Art, Loxley Arts,  you can also get Loxley Linen canvases at Art Discount and Pegasus Art.


  5. Composition – shapes and how they are arranged,  lines and their direction.

    Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) Munster, County Kerry, Ireland, 1952
    Henri Cartier-Bresson, County Kerry, Ireland, 1952

    I like looking at how photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Vivian Maier, William Eggleston and Harry Gruyaert used light, colour and composition in their work.

    William Eggleston
    William Eggleston

    “If the arrangement of the big shapes is strong and coherent, it’ll carry the painting. You are 90 percent of the way toward achieving a composition – and consequently a painting – that will work from Mastering Composition“by Ian Roberts

Compositional Guide see here 

Painting of Irish Cottage on Gola, Gweedore
Down to the Pier, Gola by Emma Cownie (Private Collection)

6. Tonal value – The value of a color is how dark or how light that color is. It is easy to see value shifts looking to an image in black and white or in grayscale; it is a little trickier to see it in color.

Tonal values video examples here  

Gray Scale and Value finder
Gray Scale and Value finder
Painting Value Studies with Peggi Kroll-Roberts DVDs
Jana Bouc, Painting Value Studies with Peggi Kroll-Roberts DVDs

Painting of Tenby Harbour
Tonal painting of Tenby Harbour  (Emma Cownie)

7. Colour 

Colour – warmth/coolness of colours and their intensity

Get a Colour Wheel

Colour Wheel

Browns
Brown isn’t on a lot of colour wheels

There is more than way to mix a particular colour. Sometimes its a matter of trial and error. Practice mixing colours and understand why some combinations (the three primary colours for example) result in mud. Mixing “warm” and “cool” colours doesn’t work either. See an explanation here. Remember that brands vary. I have found that  not all “Vandyke Browns” are the the same.

Colour Theory video here 

Van Gogh – used complementary colours in his work to intensify his colours

Some artist restrict their palette, inspired by Anders Zorn

The many shades of the Zorn palette
The many shades of the Zorn palette

Notice how the artist holds the brush with paint up against the reference source in this video clip

Compare the paint with the reference
Compare the paint with the reference

Mixing the exact colour examples here and with acrylic paint here 

Peggi Kroll Roberts – value and colour system 

The Yellow House, Emma Cownie (Private Collection)

8. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Yet don’t forget the details!

Catherine Kehoe
Catherine Kehoe

9. Using Source Material (photographs)  

Don’t be afraid to change what is in the source photos you use, leave out things, simplify forms. Sometimes a really good photo doesn’t make a really good painting. I take photos with the express idea of using them for painting, that means they are not necessarily good photos but they have the information I need.

Peggi Kroll Roberts  – translating from a photo  

Peggi Kroll Roberts, Sharing the Sun
Peggi Kroll Roberts, Sharing the Sun

Peggi Kroll Roberts – demonstrates a “high key” painting, where values are kept at a narrow range, in the lighter shades of value.


10. Watch videos and save them – If you want to know how an artist does something, look it up. It might help, it might not. I have found that looking up a technique say “scumbling” is more useful that “how to paint clouds” because I have realised that I have to find my own way of doing something.  I save links on my pinterest account.

Tucson Art Academy Online – lots of short clips 

There is an online gallery/site called Dailypaintworks.com run by Carole and David Marine and daughter Sophie  which runs regular challenges where you can post your paintings along side other artists. They also offer tutorialsArtBytes – Affordable Byte-sized Fine Art Tutorials. Some are free ones as well as modestly priced ones

William Kemp Art Shool offers excellent advice for beginners in oil and acrylics (and a downloaded book on starting acrylics).

How to Paint a Simple Still Life using Oil Paints
How to Paint a Simple Still Life using Oil Paints (Will Kemp)

https://gaborsvagrik.easywebinar.live/registration offers a free webinar


Finally, find your own voice. Forget all of the above points and just create. Don’t copy. By all means steal good ideas. You have to have your own style, like you have a style of hand writing you have a style of painting. Let it develop. Good Luck.

Painting of Early Morning Shadows at Low Tide, Three Cliffs (Gower)
Early Morning Shadows at Low Tide, Three Cliffs (Gower)