Heroic Creativity

There are more great artists around the earth and in our neighborhoods than ever before. The Internet has broadened their reach and their impacts in ways never before dreamed.

I set aside time each day to study them, flipping though books, magazines, search engines and social media, their work inspiring and challenging me. If I’m not careful, they can also intimidate and discourage me. But even knowing my shortcomings, their power draws me forward, and ultimately is a testimony to the potential in each of us.

Today I highlight four of my favorites artists, my artistic heroes. These are successful contemporaries (yes, Rockwell was a contemporary of mine) whose efforts have been validated by their decades-long successes. Their images always arrest my attention; they uplift and challenge me. I hope they do the same for you.

Norman Rockwell Art
Normal Rockwell, the master of gentle humor and tender hearts. Iconic, deeply emotional work rendered with idealized realism, pushes and pulls me to create. If you have a chance to see his work in person, do.
Scott Gustafson Art
Scott Gustafson. Subtle humor, glorious colors, marvelous attention to believable detail, always positive, always uplifting. I learn much from his tutorials.
Thomas Blackshear Art
Thomas Blackshear. Always a bit of a showboat, he is a confident dreamer driven to succeed. Powerful rendering, color and imagery.
Brad Holland Art
Brad Holland. Wonderful imagination, another supremely confident artist driven to succeed. His works transformed editorial art as an industry and always make me think. Not all of his work shares my values, but I thrill at his deep thinking and ability to tell powerful stories, simply. His works always make me want to better my own.

#illustration #art #fairytales #editorial #heroes #threebears

Latest Angel Painting

Heavenly Embrace
Click to enlarge

Today I published Heavenly Embrace, the latest in my series of angel paintings. The painting reflects the truth that the same relationships we enjoy on the earth will follow us into Heaven. The joy we feel in reunions there will eclipse our best experiences here like our sun eclipses the stars.

In the post I also describe the process of creating the painting as well. This one was challenging.


Painting on Aluminum, Follow-up

Watching Over the Newborn Lord
My first experiment

In my post titled Painting on Aluminum, I described my journey of discovery with this new medium. The first work I created with it is called Watching Over the Newborn Lord, shown above. The second is Heavenly Embrace. I spent many hours on them and learned a lot.

Aluminum panels, when properly prepared, differ little from any other painting base. They are lightweight, strong, and durable. The surface quality varies considerably from piece to piece, some having pockmarks, dents and scratches. For the most part, sanding and coating with gesso overcomes those pieces, but if you are going to paint on the untreated surface, which I did, you will have to allow for those problems.

Sizes larger that 24 inches in any direction require bracing, as the composite will sag. Prepared canvas usually include good bracing; you will have to come up with your own solution for larger pieces.

Will I paint on aluminum again? Perhaps. It has many advantages. My experience is slightly tainted, because I chose to paint on the untreated surface, which is slick as glass, a new and uncomfortable process for me, and I used new paints, which properties I wrestled with as well. These, combined with the constraints of painting on a relatively small size, frustrated me and slowed me down a lot. My next piece will be on canvas. We’ll see what happens after that.

Here is a detail of my second painting on aluminum, showing the imperfections of the process and some of what I learned:

Heavenly Embrace Detail

Watching Over, Updated

Watching Over the Newborn Lord
Click to enlarge

I updated my latest painting, “Watching Over the Newborn Lord“, focusing on The Lord’s face.

Geneva Oil Paints


Geneva Oil Paint Benefits
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Geneva Oil Paints transformed the way I paint.

For decades, I’ve painted with oils straight from the tube. Rather, I should say I fought with oils straight from the tube, because I regularly wrestled with painting challenges: Viscosities ranging from cold butter to syrup, drying times varying from hours to days, issues with leveling and glare, uneven final surfaces, and difficult-to-photograph results. Mediums like linseed oil and galkyd have helped in the fight but they brought their own problems.

Looking at master paintings comforted me a bit, because I could see that many of them faced similar problems. Still, there had to be a better way (Yes, I experimented with gouache and other media).

I knew I could mix my own oil pigments and optimize the medium for teach, but that is an expensive, smell, slow, and detailed process I’d rather not pursue. Others have done that work; I’d rather invest in their expertise and get going on my assignments.

I did a good bit of research and tried many manufacturers’ products before settling on Geneva’s line. Why? They directly addressed my concerns. Working with their materials improved my processes.

Here’s how:

  • The paints share a consistent viscosity, more like cream than butter, a real pleasure to mix and paint with. Laydown is easy and blending a breeze.
  • They dry slowly. This was a challenge for me. Deadline-driven artists like myself normally seek fast drying paints. I became a convert to Geneva’s products when, as a part-time artist only able to set aside an hour or two to paint at a time, I found their materials still workable eight days after squeezing them from the tube. I could literally come home from work, sit down at my easel, and start painting. No prep time, and the paints no longer dried out while waiting for me to find another long span of free time. This has been a powerful time and money saver for me and drastically reduces the time I spend trying to match dried-out colors.
  • The colors are truly vibrant, so color mixing is not a problem. And when I need a specific color, they work perfectly with my cache of pure colors. All I need to do to match viscosities is add a little standar painting medium (linseed stand oil with petroleum distillate).
  • Glare is reduced as well. Leveling is the ability of paint to hold the details of a stroke. Thicker paints retain the texture of the bristles as the brush drags across a surface. This can be wonderful, but those ridges can produce hot spots as highlight strokes when trying to photograph them. Thinner paints smooth out, softening edges, reducing glare and presenting a more photo-friendly surface. This is a powerful plus in many ways.

One unplanned benefit to using Geneva paints was that they changed my technique. Instead of using raw throw-down on dry layers, I now work alla prima, adding wet paint layers over still-wet paint. It felt like coming home. Drying time is much longer, but for those projects where timing is essential, I can add driers or revert to my previous techniques.

Will I only use Geneva paints? No, for many reasons, including those recounted above. But I have enjoyed them so far. You can see how I used them through my article, “Watching Over the Newborn Lord”.

Watching Over the Newborn Lord
Watching Over the Newborn Lord

I recommend watching the videos on Geneva’s website. The concepts are instructive.

FWIW, the set I bought from them is called Essential Palette + Black, which includes 100ml tubes of Pyrrole Rubine, French Ultramarine, Burnt Umber, Cadmium Yellow, Titanium White, and Geneva Black. The investment was worth it. They have two other more-intense colors, but so far I haven’t needed them.

Let me know your own results. I’ll report back as I keep learning.

Painting on Aluminum

Watching Over the Savior
Click to enlarge

Art credit: Watching Over the Newborn Lord

Advertising professionals seek products that can endure herd abuse on convention floors and stand for months outdoors, unprotected. Sign substrates must work with several media, be rigid without being brittle, and be low-cost, enduring, and zero maintenance.

Traditional artists have long sought similar products, seeking stable, long-lasting painting surfaces that withstand moisture, mildew, insect damage, temperature changes, shipment abuse, public handling, the hazards of framing and display, and the rigors of the painting process itself. They have used everything from cave walls to canvas, stone to wood, and paper to gold.

Within the last two decades, these two professions partnered to produce an effective solution: Aluminum. More accurately, composite panels made from polyethylene sandwiched between two layers of aluminum. Available from several manufacturers, these panels are said to be 100% archival, meaning they are long-lasting and will not leach their chemicals onto your artwork. They are stiff, strong, and accept most media, primed or painted directly. Their thinness and light weight makes shipping and framing easier.

I was drawn to metal because I wanted create paintings that capture the ethereal qualities of angels. Reflections from unpainted aluminum react to viewers’ changes in position and lighting, shifting from dark grey to blinding glare as they walk past. This allows for deeper level of engagement and interpretation, and invokes airiness and separation, perfect for my wants.

The panels come in many sizes and colors, primed or unprimed, and can be used for pencil, ink, acrylic, oil, and even watercolor, and can be varnished. The surfaces are quite slick, so you may have to coat it, rough up the surface, or adjust your painting style. A compromise would be to prime the surface with clear gesso, although any coating may mask the shine.

For more information, I recommend Howard Lyon’s excellent review on Muddy Colors, “Painting on Aluminum Composite Panels”.

To see an example of my results, see the post “Watching Over the Newborn Lord“.

The Story Behind “Joseph Angel”

Joseph Angel
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I posted online the story behind my latest portrait, a tale of surprise, inspiration, new-found friendship, and joy.