Friday, 25 September 2015

Common Art Myths - Part 2

 Blog 38

Beckett's Creek - Summer, acrylic, 11" x 14"

Fall at Beckett's Creek, mixed media, 30" x 40"

I hope you enjoyed last week’s blog. This time, I would like to share the second part of the ten art myths with you.

6. Painting on Small Supports is Easier than Painting on Big Supports

An artist usually picks the size of his support (the material or surface onto which the paint is applied, e. g. canvas, board, paper) according to the subject he wants to paint and effects he wants to create. The bigger the canvas the more impact it will have on a wall but there will also be more restrictions to where it can be hung.

Picking the size of a canvas also depends on the painting location. In the studio, the artist is usually more flexible than outside. The transportation to the painting site has to be considered as well as the practicality of putting up a big canvas when painting in nature. The bigger the canvas, the heavier it is and the easier it can be blown off the easel (or blown away with the easel) on a windy day.

Usually, if you have a smaller canvas you just adjust the size of your brushes accordingly. However, I find extremely small canvases often a bigger challenge because you have to really simplify or you will have paint so tiny shapes which require a steady hand.

The size of the canvas definitely does not correlate with the time needed to finish a painting. Sometimes you get just stuck at a certain point and it is a challenge to get the painting right. This can happen to you no matter the size or subject. 
7. You have to Follow the Rules

While there are a couple of rules to help artists to make a composition more interesting and to create the illusion of space, there are many examples where artists have successfully broken the rules. Canadian painter Alex Colville is a good example of someone who broke many rules purposefully, but made sure his compositions were still convincing. For example, his subjects cast no shadows, they leave no trace or footsteps and seem to float.
Plein air painters might also have faced the following situation: The painting spot is clouded over while the sun is lighting up a field in the distance making it look warmer. While you usually should use warm colours in the foreground as they seem to advance towards the viewer and cool colours in the background because they give the illusion that something recedes, this is not what they are seeing at that moment. Therefore, if they want to capture the scenery in front of them, they will put warm colours in the area that is highlighted by the light.

If you want to create a lasting quality piece of artwork, you have to follow some rules dedicated by the medium you are using. For example, you should not mix acrylic and oil colours if you want to make sure that the surface is sticking to your canvas and not cracking. However, there are artists who know about the risks and do not care about the consequences for their art because their aim is not to create something that is lasting.

8. A Colour is Either Warm or Cold

This is what many students learn when they first study colour theory. There are the primary colours red, yellow and blue, and secondary colours green, purple, and orange. It is a simplified approach. However, let us take for example red and green. Red is generally a warmer colour than green. However, when you add blue to the red to make it darker and yellow to the green to achieve a yellowish green, the green is suddenly warmer than the red. Moreover, you also have to take in consideration that the temperature of any colour is always influenced by the surrounding colours. While green seems cool compared to yellow, it will look warm when placed next to blue.

9. Adding White to a Colour Lightens the Colour

This is partially true. The process of adding white to a colour is called tinting. However, when you add white (especially opaque paint like titanium white), you not only lighten the colour but also make the colour look chalky by removing the vibrancy of the colour. Tinting a transparent color with titanium white will produce an opaque colour. You will also change the temperature of the colour, making it cooler. In the case of red you even end up with a different colour: pink. If you just want to lighten a colour, mix it with a lighter version of the original colour or add a small amount of light yellow.

10. Good Artists Work with a Limited Palette of Colours

The number of paints on your palette does not automatically say something about the skills of you as an artist. However, many artists decide on a limited palette for the following reasons. Even though you can buy about 100 different colours right out of the tube, buying a huge quantity of colours is not only expensive, hard to keep organized, but also too big a weight to carry along, if you work at different locations. With just a basic palette you can mix so many different variations of colours. Preparing a couple of mixing charts will make it faster to find the right combination, especially if you are not an avid painter. For the above reasons, many artists work with a limited palette. I use the following pallette:

Lemon yellow
Cadmium yellow medium
Cadmium red
Alizarin crimson permanent
Ultramarine blue
Cobalt blue
Titanium white
Burnt Umber
Sap Green
Payne’s Gray

However, there are some colours that I use on special occasions because I just found that I have not managed to create a certain vibrant colour I was looking for. One is magenta which I often use for painting flowers. Sometimes, I just see a beautiful colour and add it to my palette for certain subjects.

I hope you liked the blogs about the art myths. I am sure there are many more. Please sign up at the bottom of this page, if you would like to receive my blogs automatically by email.

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