Category Archives: Uncategorized

How to Paint a Landscape Background in Your Figure Painting

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.

Will You Join Me and become a Visionary?

What Is Your Vision?
Will You Join Me and Become a Visionary?
“Ruth”
Pastel on Wood 24×20″
I know that in your mind’s eye there is a vision that is all your very own. You may call it a dream that you would like to become a reality. It can be in your relationships, your career or a secret aspiration that you don’t share with anyone. The Webster’s definition of “vision” is:
“An experience of seeing someone or something in a dream or trance, or as a supernatural apparition.”
In the King James Version of The Bible, in Proverbs 29:17-19:
“Where there is no vision, the people perish”
The greater vision, the sharper the image in your mind’s eye. The sharper the image the greater the chances that it will be manifested in reality. How do we make the vision clearer?  We have the power to sharpen the wispy visions in our minds into the something tangible.
In Habakkuk 2:2-3 KJV:
“Write the vision and make it plain upon tablets, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak and not lie. Though it tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come; it will not tarry.
The Bible states that a vision is crucial for life and it’s important to write it down, and watch and wait for it to manifest. How much time do you take to develop and flesh out your vision? If we do this, we are doing something that few people have the courage to do. 

Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, recently studied the art and science of goal setting: She found that you become 42% more likely to achieve your goals and dreams, simply by writing them down on a regular basis. 
In conclusion, what is your vision? I know that I want my vision to have a have a 42% more of a chance to become a reality.  I am throwing down the gauntlet for me and for you. Write down and develop your vision. Develop and flesh out the details. Though it may take some time, refer to it every day, be patient, work hard and watch it manifest. That is what I am going to do. Will you join me and become a visionary?

Bet on Yourself, Not Holding onto Someone Else’s Dream

Bet on Yourself

This evening I have discovered the HBO show, entitled, “Silicon Valley”. The show is about this young man who has developed an idea that has the possibility to make huge changes in the world of digital technology.  Big tech companies offer him millions but the growth of the idea and concept will be taken from him. He has the dilemma, to grow the idea with investors or sell it out and abandon his baby.

This show struck a major chord with me. I have been perfecting my technique over the years since my teenage years and adult life. My art has always been my baby and I am in charge of what happens to it, its development and it’s commercialization. Yes, I said it, the commercialization of my art. I have been taking care of my art my whole life and I have finally come to the point that it is time that my art takes care of me.

When is it OK to commercialize? Is it nobler and artistic to work for someone else when I am sitting on something as marketable as my art? It is not nobler to play it safe?

We wait and hope that someone will discover our talents, our developed skills and ideas. We pine and hope for validation. Really? We need validation?

I was the one that had gotten up 3 hours early and left 3 hours later during high school each day, to take extra painting and drawing classes. I was the one that had taken a bus and 2 trains to the National Academy of Design, 5 days a week, for 4 years to study with the best painters in New York City.

I paid my dues and over the 25 years after art school, I have kept pushing my artistic talent and technique. I have been taking verbal jabs at those who had given me the advice to give up this “art thing” for something more serious. I have sacrificed new cars, relationships, and respect of many for the development of my artistic skills. What is more serious than that?!

Validation? I earned my stripes and I need no validation. The only validation I need is my hard work and experience. Yeah, I will be betting on me because I know the solid foundation my art is standing upon. No more being a tool to achieve someone else’s dreams and goals. It’s time to work on my own. It has been an honor to develop my art over the years. I would not trade one day of it. It is time to bet on myself.

Is it ok to go all out?

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
~Marianne Williamson

Is it OK to go all out? Is it prudent and wise to take a chance that seems risky on paper?

Do we decide how our life is going to turn out or are we destined to fulfill a plan? Someone asked me, is it our compulsions and inner drive that will determine the ultimate level of success?

Have you ever been afraid of the still small voice within? Does that voice have promises for a different life? Can that voice direct us on a path that would deliver?

These questions I have been wrestling with since I was a teenager. I have been and always will be afraid of that still small voice and its obsession. That obsession is my art and the destination that it promises for me if I move forward without compromise.

To be successful in the world of art, wouldn’t that be everything that I have always wanted? Wouldn’t financial freedom and a certain amount of fame make my life easier? Won’t all that I wanted to be mine and the people around me happier?

I think of the roles that we all play within our social groups, be it family, romantic relationships, or friendships. We all serve a role in the “play” of life. Some of us are the smart ones or another would be the pretty one. Person “A” would be the one with the financial struggles and an issue with money managing. Their group of friends and family would just say, “That is just how “A” is.” Every one of us fulfills our individual roles. It is who we have become in the eyes of everyone around us. It is our “station” in life. I have a hypothetical for you though.

What if I make such a huge paradigm shift that I shatter the roles that I have always played? I know that if I do become successful and fulfill my calling, I could be such an alien to who I was. I may alienate myself from the people in my life. I am not saying that this definitely will be the case or that there is any truth to this hypothetical but, it could happen and that is alarming.

I have always been the one that was not successful and struggled for my art. I was the one that made the “safe route” more attractive to those around me. My being the example of following their heart and losing, propagating the notion of stay in school and get a practical degree, is edifying to their decision to play it safe. But what if? What if?

Let’s say, that I rise above my fears of homelessness and strive to listen to that still small voice and reach the goals that were set forth for me; how will that paradigm shift affect those around me. Will my success allow others to listen more intently to that still small voice? Will my sweat and tears save another from as many?

It all comes down to that, doesn’t it? I will strive to help the one that does not want to go the “safe route” be it now or sometime in future, even long after I am gone. So I will persevere and continue to fight the fight to keep that voice alive and listen to the voice, whatever the consequences.

Paintings are Documents

“Paintings are documents.” ~ David Hockney
David stated that paintings are documents. I would have to agree that the drawings, paintings, and photographs that we take are documents. These documents will, most likely, say a lot of things about our life at that time.
In my work, this is very evident. In the Autumn of 2007, I started to have some questions and issues about money. This went into my subconscious and the manifestation of this is my “Currency” series. The money made it into my art as background to my paintings.
“Currency #1” 
Pastel on Masonite 24×20″
2007
When I was a student at Southampton College, I had an English teacher and she liked my poetry. She said that the more that I write, the more my work will have the full spectrum of emotions and life experiences. I never forgot that word of advice. She was perfectly correct. The more that I wrote the broader spectrum was in the poetry.
This is true with painting, drawing or photography. The more that you work the more that the work is in lock step with your life and perspective. The style emerges and it is never discovered.
With all this being said, create more frequently and the work will be more of who you are and this time in your life. Like a historical document, the work will tell details about you and in great detail.
Why I Can No Longer Just Paint for Fun?
I always thought how noble it was for the artist to paint only for the enjoyment and the purity of self expression. To be an artist was something that was above self promotion and commercialism. I had this lofty opinion more on the subconscious level my whole artistic career. Then I had a conversation…
This weekend I was at an event sponsored at the High School of Art and Design, where I am an alumni. It was a draw a thon. It was an all day event to raise money for the students. Artists of all ages and levels drew and painted from the model for a fee. I met several people from the present and the past. It was a lot of fun. I met a fellow artist friend and he told me an artist who had passed away recently. This artist was a very accomplished painter whom worked his whole life. His technique was beautiful and his content was extremely soulful. He had shown me some of his paintings and they were like Rembrandt’s portraits with beautiful colors and drawn perfectly.
He told me that there was a sale soon for most of his paintings and drawings. Most of the work had little monetary value in the art market. Many pieces were selling as low as $20. I felt my heart sink and the blood rush from my head. A sense of fear fell  over me. At first, it was unexplainable. I didn’t know where this was coming from. Was I that empathetic of this artist who passed away? Was all this emotion for an artist that I didn’t even know? Then it dawned on me.
The fear was for me! I have been wrong all these years. There is no nobility in painting and drawing without self promotion or commercialism. This attitude of art for art’s sake does not serve the public or the artist. This great artist should not be in obscurity when far lesser artists are having one man shows with champagne toasts and huge articles in publications and books written about them. I wish that this great artist was more known and that his work was gobbled up by museum curator and collector alike. I can’t do anything about that. I can; However, do something about my art and my career. I can continue to market and expose my work as much as possible and stop feeling guilty about the commercialization of my work. Part of the artist’s job is expose the art to as many people as they can. I have decided, no more guilt and much more marketing.
I want my art to be revered and handled by museum curators and lovers of my paintings and drawings when I am gone. I know the only way for that happen is for me to increase imy art’s reach as far as I can. I will be creating more blog posts, videos on my YouTube channel, as well as,instructional DVDs and e-books. My art career is not just about creating the work. It is only half the battle..

If Rembrandt had a blog…

Here I am in the wee hours of the morning, on my Samsung Galaxy tablet, typing my blog post about my art and my inspirations. With the advent of  technology and the Internet, I can reach more people in a single morning than Rembrandt could have reached in years.

As an artist today, my sphere of influence is far greater and more autonomous than ever before in the history of art. In one YouTube video on my own YouTube channel, I have almost 60,000 views. This video is a speed painting of a pastel I painted of a young woman. This is why, as an artist, it is imperative that I adopt technology.  It is part of the artist’s job to get the work where you, my audience can see it. It is my task to increase the scope and breath of my work and its influence. Exposure can not happen with the old methods of gallery openings and occasional  articles in periodicles.  Those old world ways are definitely not practical anymore.

It is not enough for the artist to create and be free of marketing concerns. If I continue down that road, I will be working in corporate until the day I pass from this world. Yes, I would have kept my work pure of such commercial concerns; However, at what cost? Will my time spent on business concerns, using the new technologies of the day, effect the purity of my art? Realistically, I believe it has to, at least to some degree. This is inevitable but the alternative of continuing to work in the corporate world is a far worse fate.

Necessity is the mother of invention.  I have come to the epiphany that the death of the gallery market in the village art scene in New York City, is not the end of the line. This is a new Era and if we, as artists adapt, we will thrive and grow even more than it was ever possible for a Rembrandt or Vermeer.

A Rembrandt or a Vermeer, needed the art world to get their work out there. They needed the collectors and newpaper editors to push and spread their influence. However, today with only a Samsung Galaxy tablet, I can and will reach more people with this single blog post than artists throughout history could have in many years.

With all this being said, I am embarking on a journey with YouTube and social media to be one of the most influential artists and teachers on the Internet. I know it will take lots of work and consistency on my part.  I have stepped up my video equipment and dedication to use this technology. I can do what the old masters couldn’t do. My YouTube channel is: www.youtube.com/user/paintedglyphs333 . I would greatly appreciate it if you would subscribe to my channel. There, I share my painting and drawing techniques, as well as, my current artwork.

In conclusion, the artist today has much more control over their work and the scope of influence they enjoyed in all of art history. The imperative goal is to be consistent and know that the artist’s job does not begin and end at the easel. We are our own marketing team, the public relations firm and directors of development.
Timothy John-Luke Smith, PSA
“Prosephone in Autumn #2” 
Pastel on wood panel
11×14″
Seeing the World Through the Four Seasons

About a year ago I started to work on the “Prosephone” series. I was initially inspired by Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s version of Prosephone. I am painting the myth of Prosephone as an allegory of  the stages of life and relationships. My paintings and drawings of Prosephone and her situation are even more specific to the four seasons and how Prosephone is effected by this yearly cycle. This is both a very personal and  a universal theme. 
We are all effected by stages of life both on a small and a large scale. Whenever I see the work of other artists depicting subjects in different seasons, I can’t help but to think of the seasons of our lives.
For me, Prosephone represents the cycle of trials, struggles, hopes, perseverance and happy times in all our lives. In my life, this has been very much like that of the four seasons. Now that I am getting ready to paint, “Prosephone in Winter”, certain feelings and memories of the winter seasons of my life flood past me. Those times were as cold and as long as the winter nights. It seemed as though there was no end in sight. We must remember Prosephone’s story, in the spring she returns to Paradise each year.
Prosephone  by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Haystacks by Claude Monet

Thinking Outside The Box in Pastel

The importance of thinking “outside the box” with pastel.


Currently on my easel is a small portrait that I am working on in pastel.  It measures 11×14″, on wood panel treated with my marble dust and gesso mixture. The portrait is close to life size ( one side note, when painting the portrait it is always best to scale the artwork life size or smaller when at all possible.

As I am painting this portrait I come across some instances when the medium of pastel does need a little help from other mediums, to get the clarity and vision in the contrasts between the light and the dark. I am unable to get the intensity that I am striving for to key in the values. If the dark is not dark enough, even by one value on the value scale, it will effect all the other values in the portrait.

My dilemma is, how do I get this rich color dark value with pastel, while not overloading the surface with excess pigment. The only answer is the airbrush. I approach the painting with the airbrush applying light passes of that rich dark color ( as always you will need to do all that you can to avoid the dreaded over spray). This method does two wonderful things. The first is that it achieves the wonderful dark color while maintaining the textured marble dust surface of the board. The second advantage is that the airbrush, the use of free hand shields and/or frisket film, will create and reinforce marvelous edge variation. This will be almost impossible to achieve without this technique.

The artist is able to go back and forth between the airbrush and the pastel pigment to push and pull the edges until they are pleased with that particular passage. As long as the marble dust surface is not overloaded, this could be done many times. Why live with the limitations of a medium? I do not feel the painting becomes “mixed media” because the artist finds solutions to make a better painting.

This reminds me of Bruce Lee’s fighting style of Jeet Kune Do. This is said the be a defensive fighting style of martial arts without any set form. Bruce felt that if one adhered to one fighting style that the martial artist would be too rigid in their approach. In an interview found in the DVD, Little, John (1973). Bruce Lee: In His Own Words. Bruce stated:

To obtain victory, therefore, it is essential not to be rigid, but to be fluid and able to adapt to any situation. He compared it to being like water: “Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. That water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” Lee’s theory behind this was that one must be able to function in any scenario one is thrown into and should react accordingly. One should know when to speed up or slow down, when to expand and when to contract, and when to remain flowing and when to crash. It is the awareness that both life and fighting can be shapeless and ever changing that allows one to be able to adapt to those changes instantaneously and bring forth the appropriate solution. Lee did not believe in “styles” and felt that every person and every situation is different and not everyone fits into a mold; one must remain flexible in order to obtain new knowledge and victory in both life and combat. One must never become stagnant in the mind or method, always evolving and moving towards improving oneself.

I feel that Bruce, was onto something that also applies to the fine arts. If we are not looking for new solutions to both old and new problems in painting and drawing, we are in danger of repeating ourselves, becoming derivative and predictable. Be like water and we will be able to respond to the subject and the painting or drawing as we are working on it. Each painting is a moment in time and this one moment is just as special as the creation of the Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.