Sergio Lopez - North SF Bay Area Fine Artist

Upcoming Shows and Events

-April: Braving The Elements - Landscape Group Show, Robert Lange Studios, Charleston, SC.
•Indelible - Group Show, Alexi Era Gallery, St. Louis, MO.
-May: "California Light" - Landscapes. Christopher Queen Gallery, Duncans Mills, CA.
•May 15-18: Carmel Art Festival
•May 21-24: Paso Robles Art Festival
-September 2014: Sergio Lopez/Mia Bergeron - Robert Lange Studios, Charleston, SC.
-October 2014: "The Traveling Painters," 3-Person Show - Christopher Queen Gallery, Duncans Mills, CA.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Conversation About Palettes

Thomas Kitts has been blogging about color this week. You should read this article and the replies before going further here.

Thomas writes: "It seems to me as a colorist/painter that there is a gap in the red-to-blue spectrum waiting to be filled. Sure, I could mix alizarin and ultramarine together to bridge that gap but I've tried it and am never satisfied with the result. Especially when I use that mix to modify other hues."

Yes. I have never been satisfied with the purple you get from mixing alizarin and ultramarine as a local color for anything. I like it as a cool dark for shadows in sunlight, but it's a purple you kind of have to "trick yourself into seeing". I am also looking for a tube of violet color that can be easily modified yet has a strong identity of its own.

Thomas writes: "As for intensity, almost any mineral colorant will exhibit a weaker tinting strength than a modern synthetic – assuming all other things are equal. But in my mind, and for my way of painting, a weak purple isn't bad thing. It's rare for purple to appear in an intense state out in nature. So I tend to use my purples as a modifier, to gray down distant greens, or to create a transition between warm reds and cool blues in flesh tones."

I mostly use purple as a modifier as well, but there are those rare instances that you need a purple that is hard to mix without having specialty colors, like flowers for example. I am going back and forth between a Cobalt Violet Hue and a Mineral Violet. Might need to make a color comparison chart (re: Richard Schmid) to see how they mix with the colors in my palette in reality.

Thomas writes: "The thing is, we artists need to learn more about the actual colorants used in our paint and rely less upon what I call the "shelf name" on the tubes."


Right. Always check the actual ingredients in a tube when comparing different brands of paint.

"...Or worse, your tube of white might say Kremitz/Cremnitz/Cremetz/Flake White and it isn't even an actual lead white but a substitute." 


I don't think I've come across such false labeling on a paint yet, but I have seen stuff labeled "Flake White Substitute" with some combination of Titanium/Zinc/Calcium Carbonate.

Thomas writes: "Lefranc's informs us on their online color chart that their cobalt red violet (shelf name) uses a colorant identified as "PV49" (ASTM standard). Hooray for them. So if I want to try to find an equivalent in another manufacturer's line, say a Gamblin paint, I should be looking for PV49 and not something called cobalt red violet."

Yes. That's how I discovered that Winsor&Newton's Green Gold is the same as M.Graham's Azo Green, and NOT RGH's Green Gold, which is a lot more like the Sap Green you would find in other manufacturers' paint tubes.

Thomas writes: "Another thing to look for on the paint label is how many colorants were involved in creating that hue. Again, LeFranc's chart states that their Cobalt Violet Light is composed of PV49, PV14, and PW4. That's three hues, not one. This means LeFranc's cobalt violet light may be a fine color to paint with but it also might behave differently than a single color equivalent would when they are mixed into other hues. (There is a school of painters out there who fastidiously restrict themselves to using single colorant paints. They believe they have more control over what happens in the mixtures if they do. I am not a passionate advocate of this idea but on occasion I do see their point.)" 


The thing I am most concerned with is variations between batches when manufacturing the paints. If Lefranc slips a bit and adds, say more PV49 and less PV14, therefore changing the color of the paint you're used to, you may not be happy with it. Or maybe even worse, it actually works better for you, but only for that one tube, and you never get that magical combo again. So I am more likely to buy a color that is composed of less pigments than one that isn't.

Thomas writes: "In the end, your palette becomes a personal one. Often, it becomes idiosyncratic to you as well. None of us end up working with the same colors all the time, or even the same set to us throughout our lives."

Yes. My palette has evolved over years of trying different paints, different manufacturers, reading about others' palettes, and most importantly, going out in the field and finding out where I need to fill gaps or what I can add to make things more convenient for me.

My palette as of June 2012:


I will tell you a little bit about why each of these colors is on my palette.

Always On My Palette:

  • Titanium White - It's the easiest white to find. I learned to paint with it, and am most familiar with how it mixes with other paint. It is powerful, opaque, and leans ever-so-slightly to the cool side. I haven't officially added Transparent White or Foundation White, but I might, because they are great colors for mixing into other paints without overpowering them. 
  • Violet Gray (Holbein) - I love this color. I bought it one time on a whim and instantly fell in love. It's great for mixing skies because of the little bit of violet I detect when observing skies in nature. It is great for the reflected blue light of the sky in shadows, or any other condition that might produce cool shadows. I wish Holbein made big tubes, because I use it so much. I've tried other colors that look similar but there's no substitute. 
  • Yellow Ochre - The staple of nearly every palette. Almost everyone learns with it, and for good reason. It mixes well, doesn't overpower, very stable and permanent, and probably the cheapest and easiest yellow to find. Can look pretty bright when mixed with Titanium White especially when used in a limited earth palette. Good color for mixing true natural yellows in nature. 
  • Permanent Yellow Deep (Holbein) - A new addition to my palette, and I like it so far. I am on a quest to find a perfect yellow to mix into white that approximates California sunlight. This is pretty decent. Mixes with other colors well too; it's not as dominant as cadmium yellows. Cadmiums kinda' spook me anyways. 
  • Alizarin Crimson - Another one of those colors that almost everyone learns with. It can be over-powering, especially to newbies. Once you know how to use it though, you'll find it a very essential color. It improves nearly every painting when used properly. I learned to paint skin tones with it, and I use it in landscapes to "smuggle reds (see Stapleton Kearns' blog (pluggin' other blogs all day)), and all types of other uses. Makes a great warm red when mixed with my other yellows, even though it doesn't look like it would. 
  • Viridian - Another color that people learn with. A lot of people use this as their only green. It mixes well with other colors, and I could get by with this as my only green, BUT... 
  • Green Gold/Azo Green - I learned about this color from reading about Jeremy Lipking's palette. I love this color. It's not terribly expensive, strong yet doesn't overpower, mixes into just about every other color to help make a good foliage color, and takes on a different characteristic when thinned out(much like Burnt Umber does). I would recommend everyone try it. I hope it becomes popular enough to make manufacturers produce larger tubes of it. I can only find small tubes. For those interested in trying this color, make sure the pigment number is PY129.
  • Burnt Sienna - I use this as an earthy red substitute that better approximates the reds found in nature than Cadmiums do(unless we're talking about sunsets, flowers or man-made reds). Terra Rosa fits this slot too, but it's too over-bearing. 
  • Burnt Umber - Another color I learned with, and is a good easy color to work with. It mixes with Ultramarine Blue to create a good black (cuz everyone says don't use black right?)and makes a good undertone for canvases and drawing. I'm beginning to suspect it is overused in most plein air paintings, so I am beginning to use it less and less in certain situations. I do use it quite often since it works well when mixed to approximate the browns in nature. 
  • Ultramarine Blue - The blue that everyone learns with. It's a cheap solid blue that can easily be the only blue that you ever need. It mixes well with everything, though it is pretty much the coolest blue, and falls short in certain situations. 

Specialty Colors:

  • Radiant Yellow (Gamblin) - The Radiants are an interesting group of paints that I like to pull out in certain situations. They get a bit 'pthaloey' meaning they can overpower mixes if not used carefully. I like Radiant Yellow especially for sunlight in the skies, highlights in water, etc. Basically anything that can use a bright very light yellow and find mixing the perfect combo with other yellows too time-consuming out in the field. This would be my favorite yellow and I would use it all the time if it was warmer, but it tends to go too cool too easily. I want a light warm yellow when creating the effect of sunlight and it never quite does it. I still really like this color, and it's ALMOST a staple color. 
  • Radiant Green (Gamblin) - Not pulled out that often. It's a cool light green that works great for certain situations. I like it for creating the cool greens in the marine foliage of Northern California. It's also a good convenience color for certain brightly lit distant trees/hills etc.It also makes that teal color you find on old pickups easy to mix. I find other uses for it, but I don't normally use it. 
  • Manganese Blue Hue - Another color I heard Lipking uses. I am not sure what he uses it for, but I mostly use it for skies on a clear day, creating turquoise colors, and basically anything else where you might use a Pthalo Blue(I think it might have some Pthalo Blue pigment in its composition). Not an essential color, but when you need it, man you are glad it's there. 
  • Cadmium Yellow - I use Cadmiums less and less these days, but I used to use them all the time. When I just need a strong bright yellow (usually on a man-made object) for any reason I'll squeeze a bit of it out on my palette. A little goes a long way, so I don't have to buy a whole lot. 
  • Cadmium Orange - Mostly used when painting sunsets or late evenings. This color is hard to find in nature otherwise. 
  • Cadmium Red - Just like Cad.Yellow, when you need a strong bright red, late evening, or painting certain flowers, man-made objects etc. Come on, anyone knows when this color comes in handy. Just a dab'll do ya. 
  • Cobalt Violet Hue - My current purple of choice in the quest to find a perfect purple. Not quite enough tinting color for my taste, but otherwise it's nice. 
  • Raw Umber - I don't use this color that often, but I like it a lot when painting gloomy and/or foggy days. A cheap color that works well for creating certain darks when painting shadows in foliage and whatnot. I continually find new reasons to use it. Good for certain moods. 
  • Ivory Black - Possible the most misused and feared color of 'em all. Hey sometimes pure black is called for, and and you don't have time to be mixin' all o' that Ultramarine and Burnt Umber. Works well when mixed in very small quantities with other colors when you just need to drop a mixture a couple of values/saturation points(saturation points? Is that thing? If it ain't I'm claiming it now). 

Even after that is said, I don't have it on my palette that often at all. I've gone months without touching it.
This palette is a work in progress, as I am sure everyone else's is. The more you paint, the more you learn what your own personal leanings are. When people look at my paintings they say they tend to lean towards warm palettes. I am so far from what I want the color in my paintings to look like. It's hard to explain what I am after in words, but I am working towards more harmony and better unity to convey the sense of time in place for whatever atmosphere I am attempting to depict. The better I understand my palette, the closer I get to what I am after.

A palette is, simply put, a set of tools and shortcuts that an artist uses to help convey the unique way he sees the colors in the world. The more an artist paints, the more he searches for the straightest path to the most accurate representation of his vision.

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Los Gatos Plein Air 2012: The Land of Fun and Wine

I just got back from Los Gatos where I participated for the first time in the Los Gatos Plein Air (LGPA) event. It was a very good experience, and I had a lot of fun. The organizers are all great, fun-loving people, and treat the artists like family. It's such a nice contrast between other events which barely acknowledge your existence.

Los Gatos is a really nice cozy suburb just outside of San Jose. There is a lot of money in the area, and a lot of hills and wild scenery surrounding it. To the south is Santa Cruz, and to the west is Big Basin. It's got a decent amount of variety depending on which way you want to go and paint. Redwoods, golden hills, eucalyptus, lakes, and the ocean a half-hour away, pretty good for a paint-out if you ask me. Too bad they are all fairly spread out.

Day 1:

I checked in fairly late so I didn't go too far to paint unless I wanted to miss to the "mandatory" orientation. I got a recommendation to check out Vasona Lake and the adjacent Oak Meadow Park in downtown. A nice aspect of Los Gatos is that it does have a lot of parks in the middle of the town. My first painting was of the little train station in Oak Meadow Park. It was a bit of a challenge to get the dappled light on to the roof and the wall. I want to go back in and fix some of the crooked parts but otherwise I like a lot of it.

"No Boarding" 9x12 Oil on Linen Board.


This painting was a tough one, came out a bit too dark. I did some quick gesture painting for the ducks at the bottom. As I was finishing it, all of the sudden six baby skunks came around the bend of the creek and started scurrying up to me. They might have been after my lunch, but they were scaring me! I slowly backed off and returned to my painting once they left. No one was hurt!

The reception came by and I saw a bunch of old friends, a few from as far as Portland, and I got to meet Lori Putnam for the first time. Among the many artists were Paul Kratter, Thomas Kitts, Brenda Boylan, Anton Pavlenko, Carole Gray-Weimann, and I recommend you Google their names and check out their work if you never have. Let's start with the wine! There were a lot of glasses emptied in the course of the event, and this is where it started. Vodka-chili-herb-infused pineapple cubes, anybody? I went to my host's huge house afterwards and kept it going there. But there is a balance that needs to be kept, and the event is just starting...

 Day 2:

The next day was spent near Santa Cruz, more specifically at Wilder Ranch State Park. Once the fog burned off, it was a perfect day. The water was a beautiful clear blue color and the scenery was amazing. There is a trail that goes along the coastal bluffs and it's breath-taking especially in the evening. I want to come back very soon to paint here again.

"Secret Cove" 16x12 in. Oil on Linen Board.

"Wilder Ranch Creek" 12x16 in. Oil on Linen Board.

"The Hide-Away Bluff" 9x12 in. Oil on Linen Board.

Day 3:

I spent the morning at the Lexington Reservoir just south of Los Gatos. There wasn't a whole lot going on with other people around, which meant I could go down and paint uninterrupted once I scramble down to the shore. I did this one in a little over an hour. I really liked the turquoise blues I was observing in the shadows.

"Morning at Lexington" 6x8 in. Oil on Canvas Board.

After being treated to a nice luncheon by the organizers, we headed up to a fellow artist's host home where we were promised some of the best vistas in town. They were pretty spectacular but the problem was all the haze obscuring most of the views and flattening a lot of the vistas. I ended up going with a more intimate scene instead and painted the pool. I really poured on the saturated color on this one. The  foliage was tough to nail down but I liked how the rocks came out.


"Evening Eucalyptus" 6x8 in. Oil on Canvas Board.

I waited for the light to change in hopes of the fabled evening light to hit the hills in the distance but it never came, so I painted these eucalyptus trees that were calling me to be painted. After this, we went to be treated to another dinner at another host's giant home, where we got more wine and avocado pie with candied walnuts. Does it get better??

Day 4:

Friday was the day we were to turn in one of our paintings for the VIP silent auction. Time to make the day count! I spent the day painting in the charming neighborhood so I could give myself time to frame up anything else I might need to. 

"University Ave. Trees" 6x6 in. Oil on Canvas Board.

I wish I knew what type of tree this was. They look cool, but they look deceptively simple and are way harder to paint than they look.


"The Lovely Brides" 6x8 in. Oil on Canvas Board.

This painting has quite the story to it. As I was painting it, there was a reporter from KCAT TV who was doing a piece for the show "Hello Los Gatos" featuring us painters and the LGPA event. As I was painting it the reporter Marianne did a short interview with me. As we were finishing up, she told me that the second dress in from the right was actually the same type of dress she wore for her wedding. She then tells me she wants to buy it "no matter what it costs." Score! Part two of this story coming soon...

"Sleepy Afternoon" 16x20 in. Oil on Linen Board.


For my final effort, I decided to try out a size that I have never attempted during an event before. Pretty ridiculous I know. It wasn't as hard as I was expecting it to be, so it's given me confidence to try it again. The key is using big brushes to block it in as quick as possible. In about an hour I had the canvas covered with a pretty simple basic block in, and so I spent the next 2.5 hours finishing it up as much as I could. The palette is more limited than I usually paint. There was a bluish-gray tint to the scene I picked up on and wanted to build my palette around.

I got done turning in my work for the VIP reception then met up with friends at the Los Gatos Brewing Company. Let me tell you, after a day of painting in the blazing heat with nothing but half a sandwich and lukewarm water to keep you going, a burger and beer never tastes better. We go check out some dive bar, make some jokes, then head back to the California Cafe for the gala! It was packed! The word definitely got out about our event. There were so many people there, it was hard to walk around for a while. This was the opportunity for us artists to vote on which painting was the favorite of our peers. Anton Pavlenko won the award for his fantastic piece. Not only was his piece great, but he made the frames and customized them himself! And they look beautiful! Take a look at his work. He's a year younger than me and he's already got his style down(unlike myself, I have a different look for every painting...). Really nails the look of the Columbia Gorge up there.

Guess what? More drinking! All of us artists hung around to socialize some more, then went to the after-party to chat it up some more. I love talking with like-minded artists, and being a "lone wolf" like myself most of the time, you cherish the chances to talk shop when they come your way, and soak them up.

Day 5:

Morning time! After waking up way earlier than I should have, I framed up the rest of my paintings to take to the park. Finally we get the chance to see what everyone else has done! There is a lot of great work to be seen. I'll share the slideshow with you here:


So... part two of the story of "The Lovely Brides." Well, the painting turned out to be wayyy more popular than I thought it to be. In fact, I think I should have put the piece up for the Artist Choice vote instead of "Sleepy Afternoon." There was a silent auction for all of our pieces, but there is an option to buy on the spot for a pre-determined price. It got a couple of bids, but about halfway through the day, somebody bought the piece for the Buy It Now price. I had thought the buyer might be the husband of Marianne, but she hadn't came by to purchase it as she said she would. She came over to my section to find out that the piece had sold and was saddened. However, I am in the process of painting a new piece based on that same view for her, so I am going to be able to make an extra sale on the same concept! Double-score happy ending!

So, with all the fun, the excitement, the quality of the paintings, and the apparent wealth of the patrons, how were the sales? Very sparse, it turns out. Although just about everyone had a bid on one of their pieces(which in turn means a sale), it was for the most part far less than what we might have expected to. As with every plein air show, sales are very unpredictable. There are many different factors as to what sells and what doesn't. What works varies from place to place and year to year. The best thing you can do as an artist is paint the best pieces you can. My best-received piece was the least typical plein-air painting. Had I not thought out of the box, I would have gone home empty-handed. 

If you are painting to sell, there are a couple of options available. One, paint for the target audience (as well as you can predict), which means going for the subjects that will resonate with the collectors, though it is always a guessing game. Another option, is to paint the type of tried-and-true paintings of your style that sell in your galleries, and wait to bring them there. What I think the best(and hardest) way is to become so good at painting that no matter what you do, the collectors have to own your paintings. The thing is, the vast majority of those artists quit doing all but the most prestigious plein air events. The cream rises to the top, and there are a lot of patrons of plein air events looking for a deal. It might just be what it is. Nevertheless, it's always great to participate in an event that is run well, the artists are treated like gold, and effort is made to improve for next year. I would absolutely come back to this event if I am accepted again.

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Water Mixable Oils - Thoughts and Experiments

Hey everyone,

For the past few weeks I've been painting en plein air with water-mixable oils. I've used them before when I was still a student and hardly knew how to use traditional oils let alone water-mixables. I had pretty much written them off as inferior for years until I had seen some cool experiments that a few friends of mine had done with them(most impressively, Akira Beard). I then decided when I had some free time and cash to blow on a new set of paints that I would try them myself.

Why Use Water Mixable Oils?

Aside from the main reason people try them, which is to avoid solvents like turpentine, there are a few unique qualities that this medium possesses that make it worth at least dabbling in.

First off, even though they are still technically oils, they are a water media and are best handled as such. If you are a seasoned oil painter and are expecting them to handle the same, you will be severely disappointed. One of the main reasons I was attracted to them was the possibility of having the unique characteristics of watercolor and oil inside of the same painting. You can create sensitive washes and impasto brushwork in the same painting. They have a lot of the characteristics that attract some people to acrylic as an alternative to oil without a lot of the drawbacks.

How Do They Compare To Other Media?

I put together this little chart in case you want to save it for later reference.


Compared to Traditional Oils

There is no substitute for traditional oils. Period. With that said, this is obviously the closest in feel to them. Some people say they dry quicker, I think they become touch-dry maybe slightly quicker, yet they stay tacky longer, it seems. They smell different as well, though I am not sure why. They also release from the brush in a different way, that's sort of hard to describe. They feel stiffer and "gummier" than traditional oils, which have that butteriness that's so appealing to oil painters.

Compared to Gouache

They are similar to gouache especially when both media are thinned out with water. Gouache seems to have a significantly higher pigment load, however; it is impossible to have impasto brushwork with gouache. Gouache seems to lack the permanence of oil as well.

Compared to Acrylic

I would say they are the most similar to acrylic in terms of handling. They thin out in a very similar manner, have a similar feel to each other on a brush, and sort of have a similar semi-transulent look once dried. Water-mixable oil doesn't have the plasticky feeling, but also doesn't have most of the covering power of acrylic in concentrated dosage. Acrylic has the potential to dry almost instantly, which is most oil painter's main gripe with it. It's much harder to layer en plein air with water-mixable oil, but since it stays open for hours rather than minutes (or even seconds) leaving you with little reason to do so when painting alla prima.

Compared to Watercolor

Aside from a few things, they can be very dissimilar from each other. Using the water-mixable linseed oil along with water to thin it out, you can do some pretty nice washes with it, however there is no substitute for the delicacy of watercolor. If you choose to, you can work completely transparently with water-mixable oils, and depending on the surface you are working on, you can do a little bit of layering if you want.

Who Would Benefit The Most?

Aside from people who for health reasons can't use solvents anymore, there are some people who may want to try them as an alternative to oils for the advantages I pointed out already. I believe the painters who would enjoy them the most are acrylic painters who are trying to use them like oil paint and keep getting frustrated. Also, illustrators and others who are used to painting with mixed media and are already familiar with the advantages/disadvantages of other media and are interested in trying on a new medium. As long as you treat it as its own separate category of medium and can set aside the fact that you are not painting with "real" oils, you can really enjoy them.

What Should I Buy?

Ok, let's start with what you should not buy. DO NOT start with Winsor-Newton Artisans or Grumbacher Max! I used those brands when I first tried to use them back in school and was so turned off that I thought I would never touch them again. What's wrong with them? They have a terrible pigment load, very limited color selection, very stiff/gummy out of the tube, and do not thin out well at all.

I have been using almost exclusively Holbein Duo. They are much more buttery, thin out a lot better (especially with the w.m. linseed oil) and have a way better color selection than either brand. I have heard that Cobras are also very good but I haven't gone ahead and bought any of those yet. Daniel Smith brand just came out with their own line, so I may try that one out.

Let's talk brushes. I tried out both my oil painting brushes and my watercolor/gouache and acrylic brushes with them. As you might guess, the best brushes turned out to be the ones that go best with their respective jobs. For example, thin washes? A faux animal-hair wash brush or a very soft nylon. Impasto? I really liked using my Rosemary&Co. Ivory stiff synthetics. Not so much hog bristles, since they lose most of their spring once soaked. Mongoose hair brushes hold up quite well, though. Sensitive detail work is best handled with thin genuine-animal-hair brushes, of course. Using the linseed oil greatly improves the brushwork as opposed to only using water.

Also very much worth getting is a good brush cleaner-restorer like Winsor Newton(my favorite). The one that Holbein makes works ok but it seems to sap all of the natural softness of animal-hair brushes out of it. I am a big fan of Richeson's Linseed Soap for basic brush-cleaning needs. Water-mixable oils are notoriously hard to clean once dried so you need some really good stuff to keep your brushes clean and ready.

What Are The Problems?

My main gripes with the medium are as follows: They are not quite as fluid out of the tube as traditional oils, the color selection is only about half of most other media(There are a few colors that have become staples of my palette in other media that I miss a lot when using w.m. oils), they don't seem to have as high of a pigment load as other media, and they have a transparency to a lot of their colors. Especially their whites! I have yet to find a white I am satisfied with! It should be by far the most opaque color yet it isn't! Keep in mind I have tried only a few different whites, but if anyone finds a white they are truly satisfied with, please let me know! They are pretty harsh on brushes and are difficult to clean once dried. I can't vouch for the permanence of the medium either. I have to admit I have not done a lot of research on the permanence, therefore until I know better I probably won't use them for a lot of gallery work. I encourage you to do your own homework there if it really concerns you. 

And now for the paintings. I did almost all of these on small scraps of leftover canvas mounted on leftover mat boards/masonite. I wanted something to do with all of that extra stuff taking up space in my studio, and doing rapid "throwaway" paintings lets me do many in a row which speeds up learning. I broke the sections down according to the surface I painted on.

Acrylic-Primed Canvas


 Acrylic primed canvas tends to suck some of the moisture of the water into it, and it's also quite difficult to get good washes with the canvas weave in the way like that. It is pretty effective for layering and impasto effects, though.






In this painting, I used some wipe-out techniques to get most of the light areas. This is a decent representation of what it means to have both watermedia effects and oil painting techniques in the same painting.


Oil-Primed Linen

As with painting with traditional oils, I really like this surface for water mixable oils as well. Washes look better than acrylic-primed canvas, better handling, not as absorbent, looks better when dry.


This painting came out looking a lot like gouache, mostly because of how much i thinned it out without using medium. There is some impasto in the highlights which I layed over a wash of yellow.

This one started off as a lot of dark translucent washes. It slowly came together with some choice thick strokes.

I like the way this one came out. I has a lot of the thick-thin spectrum I was trying to get with these experiments.

Watercolor Paper

Watercolor paper is very absorbent, as you may expect. With these I was really trying to experiment with going from thin washes to impasto. The paper's absorbency makes it hard to get nice flowing strokes, so a lot of drybrush was used with a lot of these. The cold-pressed paper makes it more pronounced on these paintings as well. I liked the look, but painting outdoors on this surface alla prima isn't nearly as pleasurable as I was hoping it to be. I would highly encourage using w.m. linseed oil medium with this paper.


A lot of warm transparent washes make up the underpainting of this one. I kept the sky pretty transparent as well.

The absorbency of the paper made it easy to lay down a flat local color in which to lay down thicker strokes (mixed with w.m.linseed) on top of it. I felt like I was finally getting a hold of the surface by the time I got to this painting.

Late evening painting. Again using very warm transparent washes to establish the color. Not crazy about the drawing but the color is decent.

Yupo Paper

And now finally, one more thing I didn't think I ever needed to touch until I was convinced otherwise. I really like what (again) Akira Beard is doing with Yupo paper, so on a whim I bought some a few months ago. I wanted to see what would happen when I combined the unpredictability of watercolor on this surface with the feel of painting oils over something so smooth.

What is Yupo Paper? It is a thin sheet of polypropylene plastic over a very thin paper backing. It is extremely smooth and easy to wipe off. It is almost identical in feel to painting on Mylar. It is very forgiving of mistakes but also very fragile because it's so easy to wipe down. I chose to exploit that part of it by doing some "subtractive" painting in areas. It's a fun surface to play on if you want to be challenged in a different way. You might discover something new about the way you want to work with your medium of choice.



A lot of the grass on this painting is a thin scrubby layer of greens, yellows, and browns. There is some impasto in the sky and the sheep, sort of, but for the most part the lights are achieved with the white of the paper.

I went to the life painting session in Petaluma to do this 3-hour pose from life with water-mixable oils on the Yupo. I purposely reversed my normal way of working by making the darkest darks the thickest part of the painting and lights almost exclusively achieve with the white of the paper. Almost no tube white was used in her face. I really like how it turned out. There is a good vibrancy to this one in person that may not translate over the computer.

I painted this very quick study in my backyard just so I could make a video demonstrating how I approached painting on this surface with this medium. Check out the video here:

http://www.youtube.com/embed/V6TQ83qRbGM

Some Thoughts

Although this is by no means replacing my traditional oil output, it's nice to have an extra tool in the case. If I want to travel and not worry about packing/buying solvents I have this as a fallback plan. I know what I am in for whenever I decide to use these paints. I can't say everyone is going to be happy with them, but I hope you can at least see the potential in them and don't completely dismiss them, as I did for so long.

Although these are just studies, I've decided to put a few of the ones I like up for sale on my Zatista page. They are really affordable, in case you are interested in owning a piece by me.

• • • • • • • • • •

In other happenings, I am heading out to Los Gatos this week to participate in the Plein Air Festival!  It is my first time participating and I hear many good things about it. I will also be reuniting with folks from all around California and the Pacific Northwest so I am sure it will be an awesome time!

Presented by: Los Gatos Morning Rotary Club RI Wheel b/w
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     painting  Morning at Garrods by Lori Putnam    |       logo and design  TreadCreative.com
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Meet the nationally acclaimed juried plein air artists on:
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- Admission is Free -
  
Supporting Art Education for Kids 

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Montalvo Arts Center Education Programs  |  Los Gatos Music and Arts  |  Art Docents of Los Gatos | The Museums of Los Gatos  |  Los Gatos Morning Rotary Charitable Foundation. Los Gatos Morning Charitable Foundation is a non-profit 501c3.
 
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