William Bouguereau, was a 19th Century French Academic painter. His technique was the zenith point of representational painting. He was able to catch the very nuances of light shifts and color changes to create breathtaking, life-like figure paintings. Mr. Bouguereau’s realism is unsurpassed, before or since, in all of art history. With that being said, let’s learn from the best, just how do we paint the landscape as a background to our figure paintings?
Bouguereau’s work, “Breton Brother and Sister“, is the perfect example of a very effective way of using the landscape to create a background in a work of art. Notice that in this piece, the stars of the painting are the two figures in the foreground. Their colors are well saturated and vivid with a full dynamic range of values. Their warm skin tones and red skirt leap out of the painting. Light and dark tones are next to one another to attract your attention.
The background, or “supporting actor”, is much more muted with an abbreviated range of values. The colors of the foliage are less saturated and cooler in temperature. All of these elements push the landscape much further into space while pushing the figures even closer to us. Everything is done intentionally; much as a movie director composes a scene in a film.
Remember that the background needs to be painted as a backdrop and never to compete with your figures. Keep this in mind next time you work on your figure painting’s composition.
Please check out and subscribe to my YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/paintedglyphs333 where I give free lessons and demonstrations on airbrush, pastel and drawing techniques.
The Best PSI or Air Pressure Revealed
Since I have been blogging and posting videos on YouTube I have been asked this question a lot. It has always been a big mystery. Some airbrush artists say 15 PSI while others say over 45 PSI. That is quite a disparity! I was even more confused than when I started my quest for the best PSI, years ago. I am going to share my own answer from what I have learned with the countless hours of painting in airbrush and much experimentation.
If you are not airbrushing t-shirts, you always want to reduce your paint to the consistency of skim milk or thinner (ink is already perfect out of the bottle). Since you are working with thin paint or ink, set the PSI on your compressor to 30 PSI. This will help you if you need to shoot out a rich opaque like white.
Make sure that you have some kind of micro adjustment valve on your airbrush. With the MAC valve you will be able to adjust the air pressure at the airbrush that works best with your paint and the amount of detail you are desiring.
Remember to always try and find the sweet spot, fine tune the MAC valve while you are working and don’t worry too much about the exact PSI. If your paint or ink is spidering, lower the air pressure on the MAC valve or increase the airbrush’s distance from the surface. Play around with it. Much is to be learned through experimentation.
If you follow my advice, you won’t need to worry about PSI again. If you are working with t-shirts, that is a different story.
30 minutes per day will make you an “airbrush control freak” in one year.
That is all that it would take. Nothing takes the place of consistent practice, By practicing a small amount of time every day for one year, you will create muscle memory and your airbrush control will happen naturally.
If you set your practice schedule as immovable blocks of minutes, you will be able to reach this seemingly lofty goal of practicing every day. I make sure that I do my paintings in airbrush during the one hour in the morning before the phones will ring.
I learned more about controlling my airbrush through the act of practicing than any lesson or seminar could ever.
How to Airbrush the Portrait in India Ink, Each Week and Why?
Timothy John-Luke Smith
Portrait of John Coltrane
India Ink and Airbrush
I didn’t set out to work in airbrush and India Ink. I am a classical trained artist with an extensive and intense curriculum. For over 8 years of training, I learned how to use many mediums such as oil painting, watercolors, pen and ink, acrylic, graphite and pastels. How did a classically trained artist ever pick up the airbrush, you might ask?
After graduation from art school I finally set my mind on the medium that I would concentrate on. That medium was pastel painting. I learned how to paint the portrait and figure in pastels with Harvey Dinnerstein, at the National Academy School of Fine Arts. For many years I only worked in this medium but I am also an innovator at heart. Painting with pastels over and over the same way was boring to me. I love the underpainting method of the 19th Century French Academic painters such as Jean Augusta Dominique Ingres and William Bouguereau. I wanted to use this technique with my pastel paintings.
Since I was trained with India Ink washes and the paint brush, I started to use this technique as an underpainting for my pastels. The one problem that I did have was that these ink washes weren’t as detailed as I wanted them to be. The paint brush was very limited to broad results. Then one day on YouTube, I seen an airbrush black and white painting and the light bulb went off. What if I shot the India Ink through the airbrush? I bought my first airbrush. Then I had gotten very good at the India Ink and airbrush and my underpaintings were as tight as I had wanted them. The unexpected happened for me. I fell in love with the India Ink and the airbrush. This is when the medium and the technique that I am developing now was born.
So, here we are embarking on a new journey, painting in India Ink and the airbrush on tinted paper or Masonite boards. I am doing live streams and videos each week that teach this technique step by step. I am meeting some incredible people and sharing our inspirations. Our community and I are growing together. We are building a community of inspiring and pushing one another to get better with India Ink and airbrush. Come join us on my YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/paintedglyphs333
How to Frame Your Pastel Painting
There are many different ways in which people insist that you must frame a pastel painting. That’s because there is paranoia concerning the pastel becoming smudged and damaged. Is this correct? Should we fear? Why can’t pastel paintings look sleek and beautiful with just a frame as oil paintings are? Well, I have some hope for you.
I never use fixative on my pastel paintings because the colors become dulled with the spray. My pastel paintings are even more delicate than others. Some crazy words of advice that I received from other pastel painters was to put plastic spacers between the glass and the painting. First, this method was ugly and it allowed pastel dust to move around inside the frame. Second, these spacers also gave room for tiny bugs and moisture to attack the painting over time. This is not a good method although it is what many in the pastel world use.
Another popular method of framing pastel painting is to use a mat board. I hate this look. Nothing says that a pastel painting is less important than an oil painting is a mat board. No thanks!
I am always looking for a better way when it comes to my art and I have no reservations looking for an edge on my own. This is when I came up with the best framing solution for a pastel painting. I carefully apply the glass flush against the painting inside the frame with no mat and no plastic spacer. What I found is astonishing.
The glass holds the pastel pigments in place and there is no chance of moisture, insects or dust to get to the painting. When framing with just the frame and no mat, all the viewer will see is your work and not be alerted that it is a pastel painting. Try this for yourself. You will be able to put more money into your frames and less on mat cutting and spacers.
So, in conclusion, the mat board is actually more of a liability when framing your pastel paintings. I have even reframed paintings using this method and the pastel looks as fresh as the day that I painted them. There is no smudging or lifting of pigment whatsoever.
Now whenever I exhibit a pastel painting in a group show, my work looks no less serious than the oil paintings next to it. A win not just for me but for all pastel painters.
Today was Saturday and today was one of the hottest days on record. It was over 100 degrees. I did not even leave the house. I stayed in the air conditioned studio and I worked on the current painting that is on my easel, “Esther” 24×36″. I worked about 12 hours today on her.
With each day, she comes a little more in focus and towards the ultimate realization of my initial vision. This painting feels more like sculpting in stone rather than painting in pastel. This is because like stone, I am chipping away, refining, and removing what doesn’t belong, to make room for what belongs.
Making room for what belongs….isn’t that what we all do in our lives when we are at our most creative? To make room for what belongs means we brush ourselves off, to get our priorities straight, and reach past beyond our potential.
I am happy with today’s progress; many aspects of the background and the face of Esther have an atmospheric quality that I want to achieve throughout this work. Each day is an adventure and I am eager to work. God’s grace has given me inspiration and I honor Him with my painting.
Tonight I am working on the very final touches of “Ruth”. Its bitter sweet. I don’t want it to end. This painting has been on my easel each morning,for the past three months, waiting for me to to add a color note here and there. I would rise with my morning coffee in hand, and eagerly set to work. Paintings become like friends to me. I confide in them and often work out life’s issues in my head while trying to solve pictorial issues. As I retire for the evening, usually the painting is the last thing I look at as I survey the day’s progress.
The painting becomes a confidant when an artist lives alone. There are no lover’s approval or advise on what is good or needs fixing. Its just the artist and the work…nothing to influence except for the inspiration that comes from that secret place inside the artist’s heart.
Many times in my life, I could measure time and events in the painting that I was working on. With that, looking at the paintings, the joys, victories and defeats, the heartache and the beauty of those times are inside the painting.
How many summers do we have? How many tender caresses will we experience? Does anyone know? How many paintings will I have the honor from God to create and release into the world? In a few days “Ruth” will be out there…on to the next chapter on the easel.
Today I started my Tuesday morning at the easel; I have been painting the folds on the blue drapery that Ruth is wearing. After painting the eyes, the shine of the skin, the background and the shadows, one would think that the folds are not as important. All the elements of the painting are just as important even though they might not have the spotlight. I see many artists paint the spot light elements and just run out of gas with the supporting cast. How many paintings or drawings do you see the figure painted with such detail and the background is weak and wishy washy?
I look at a painting much like that of a movie. The star of the movie is important but only as good as those around them. Some of my favorite actors or actresses have been “character actors”. Without them, the movie would never work.
So, I spend the next few days working out the folds of the drapery with the seriousness of an eye or lips. Without this supporting character, the star would not shine as bright.
I am very hopeful that your weekend was a wonderful one spent with family, loved ones and friends. This weekend I am working on my “Ruth ” painting. I must have spent over 15 hours on her this weekend. In this stage its all about the beautification of the edges, the details and the color harmonies. It reminds me about our lives, our seasons in our lives, to be specific. In this painting, there have been many stages, or seasons. In the first stage it was just an idea on a 4×6 inch sketchbook. Then the model posed and the drawing was on the board. It looked great. Then the under painting in black and white, and it looked great. At that point it was all rainbows, everything was going smoothly. All was smooth until the next stage.The color layers made everything look blotchy. Things did not look so hot! I stepped back and frustration, fear and panic creeped in.
Did something similar happen to you or is happening in your life? Your courtship, the early years in marriage were amazing and then the difficulty and challenges set in? Perhaps a job that started amazingly strong. Everybody loved you, you got raise after raise but now there are big changes at the office? Was there a panic? Did you stop and pray about it? Our first instinct is always to run and hide and maybe start over.
Did I start a new painting? Did I say to myself, it looks bad and I don’t see how I can make this better? Like life, I stopped, relaxed and hung in there. I did pray of course because without God nothing is possible but with God all things are possible.
“he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.”
Stick with the paintings in your lives. Please do not back down or run. Stand firm is what God told Gideon:
The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”
We are mighty warriors of God and we will not back down because, greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. So I am spending my time making the painting of Ruth become more beautiful each day. When its framed and in the gallery, nobody but me and God will know of the days and nights that I anguished over its future. 🙂
Here is a seen from a Rocky movie that is inspiring to me:
God Bless You Guys,
If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.