Tuesday, August 25, 2009


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Tips for Using Colors Effectively

Color is a complicated subject and this article is intended to give just a few helpful tips on the uses of colors.
First, I must say that you should invest in some good quality paints. I work mostly in oils, but I occasionally paint in acrylics. I really made an investment in the oil paints, however, I buy cheap craft acrylic paints so that I can feel free to experiment with them. Make sure that you buy permanent paints that won't fade in the sun. There are many books that can help you with this. If exposed to the sun continuously, paints fade and a wonderful painting can be ruined fairly quickly.
A standard color wheel contains twelve colors; three primary colors, red yellow and blue three secondary colors, orange, purple and green and six tertiary colors. The primary colors are the colors that can be mixed together to make all other colors. The secondary colors are made when you mix two of the primary colors. The tertiary are made when you mix a secondary color with a primary color. With these 12 there are so many possibilities. Try to keep in mind that on the top of the color wheel are the warm colors and on the bottom of the color wheel are the cool colors. A colors compliment is always on the opposite side of the color wheel. There are three primary colors, red, yellow and blue. If a color is primary, it's opposite is whatever secondary color that is made using the other two primary colors. For example, orange is made of red and yellow and is the opposite of blue. If you are looking for the opposite of a secondary color you will look for the primary color that is not used to make that color, and that is it's opposite. So, what about tertiary colors? Tertiary opposites are always other tertiary colors and are always the opposite of the two colors that are mixed to get them. For example, red orange has an opposite of blue green because blue is the opposite of orange and green is the opposite of red. If you remember this, you won't always need a color wheel in front of you. How can you use this information? Well there are several ways. Knowing your color wheel can help you to mix clean color without getting muddy color. On one side of the wheel there are cool colors and on the other side there are warm colors. I make it a rule to never mix more than three colors at a time (black and white don't count) and to never mix a color from the top of the color wheel with one on the bottom of the color wheel. Try to keep cool colors mixed with cool colors and warm colors with warm colors. I feel like I should add a little side note here: it is extremely important to really rinse your brush very well when you switch colors, this will also help to keep the colors clean. Having said this, using a color's compliment to gray it down when needed is a good idea, just add a little bit at a time. Another way to use this information is to realize that when working on a painting you should try to paint with primarily either cool colors or warm colors. This isn't to way that you can't use both in one painting, it is simply that one should dominate. A rule that I have is that one temperature should take up at least 2/3 of my painting. If you really want to make your subject stand out, you can paint the majority of the painting in a muted grayed down version of a color and then paint the subject this color's much more intense compliment, or opposite not grayed down. This will make your subject really pop out and steal the viewer's attention. You may also want to let one value dominate. Either your painting is mostly dark, or mostly light. The subject should always be the most detailed and have the most contrast. It also makes for an interesting painting when there are colors in the subject that won't be found anywhere else in the painting. Although color schemes are beyond the scope of this article, it is important to understand that we shouldn't use every color in a painting. It makes it too chaoitic and unpleasant. An interesting color scheme generator can be found here: http://www.colorschemer.com/online.html. It makes me want to paint all the rooms in my house. A simple to read article about color schemes in paintings can be found here: http://www.artinstructionblog.com/art-lesson-learn-about-color-schemes-for-your-next-painting Also remember to keep an open mind. There are more to colors than meets the eye. If you look at leaves, most people would say that leaves are green. What we are discribing here is called local color. This is the color that objects appear to be. We must re-learn how to look at objects. They are never just green, eveor red or any other color. There are many different hues and colors in a singel object. Let's take a single red apple as an example. The apple is sitting on a blue table near a window at sunset. The blue table will be reflected in this apple, and you will see blue in the apple. Sunsets are warm and this will make the apple be a very different color than it would be at noon. Are you near the apple? The color of your clothing will effect the color of the apple too. Don't over think it, but try to be aware that color is ever changing and the color of an object is dependant on too many factors to put into a formula. Custom Tree Triptych - Sculpted Paintings I used the painting above to illustrate two points. The first is that the warm colors dominate the painting, remember to let one temperature dominate. It is also important to let your larger values connect to each other and your smaller bits of the other value connect also. this creates harmony and flow in the painting. In this painting the darker values connect to each other and the lighter values are connected. Notice how the focal area is the area with the most detail and contrast. It makes the painting very pleasing to the eye.
In this teeny little painting the colors could have easily been muddied because of the use of many color compliments. I made suer that my brushes were absolutely clean before switching colors and I also painted the background colors first, allowed them to dry, then put the clouds and mountains on top of them, making sure that the oranges, yellows and pinks never mixed with the purples and blues.
As seen in this painting it is not neccessary, or even desirabl to use a lot of colors in a painting. This painting of a duck has very few colors in it, and yet it is an effective painting.
Also notic the duck's head and back. Even though the local color is black, when I really looked close I noticed the yellow from the sun and the blueish tones, probably from the sky. Including these in my painting makes the duck look more three dimensional and interesting. This painting is very simple. I wanted the sunset to really glow, so I muted down the blue sky, and even the yellow around the sunset is grayed down. Then you come to the sunset which contains the most intense colors in the painting. It really makes it stand out. However, because the grass stalks create the most contrast, they are what the eye notices first.

Tips on Using Color Effectively in Your Paintings

Color is a complicated subject and this article is intended to give just a few helpful tips on the uses of colors.

First, I must say that you should invest in some good quality paints. I work mostly in oils, but I occasionally paint in acrylics. I really made an investment in the oil paints, however, I buy cheap craft acrylic paints so that I can feel free to experiment with them. Make sure that you buy permanent paints that won't fade in the sun. If exposed to the sun continuously, paints fade and a wonderful painting can be ruined fairly quickly.

When looking at a color wheel you will


twelve colors.

See full size image

See full size image

310 x 359 - 32k - wgu.educommons.net/.../color-wheel/image

Image may be subject to copyright.

Below is the image at: wgu.educommons.net/.../image_view_fullscreen

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Five Simple Ways to Improve your Paintings

#1. Do not be afraid to experiment. I think that planning definitely has it's place, and it can be very helpful in creating lovely paintings. However, sometimes you just have to loosen up. The painting on the left was a painting that started out as strictly an experiment. I had no attachment to the outcome. I didn't care if it came out well or not. I wanted to play and I wanted to 'see what would happen if...' It was fun and I learned some things from this painting. If you are using super expensive paints and a pricey canvas, then you should do several sketches first and plan your painting carefully. If you feel like you just want to have fun and 'see what happens if...' go to the craft store and pick up some cheap craft acrylic paints (about $.49 a bottle) and a cheap canvas (about $5.00) and just throw some colors on and see where it takes you. Try different brush strokes and paint with different objects. The best way to learn to paint better is to paint, so just get started.
Don't judge your early attempts if you are a beginner. You are learning. You wouldn't judge a baby learning to walk, or a child learning to ride a bicycle, don't judge your self and don't allow others to judge you when you are starting out. Later on you can look for an honest critique - but not until you are confident.

#2. Simple is sometimes better. We sometimes want to add so much to a painting, but this can make it look chaotic. What we are looking for is harmony. The bird in the tree on the left was a small painting. I did several sketches to see where I wanted the bird to be and what colors I wanted to use. The first couple of sketches had trees in the background and other birds and more detailed clouds. It was too much. When I started eliminating all of the clutter a little at a time, this painting started to emerge. I kept everything simple. Simple colors, simple design and it works. It is eye catching because of the contrast and the clearly defined subject.

#3. Keep colors clean. This is truly imperative and some artists don't even notice when their paint is muddy or when the colors are dull. One way to make sure that colors are clean is to literally keep the brushes clean. I have three big containers of water to rinse my brushes in. I change them between paintings. The first has just a touch of soap in it. I swish it in their first, then a second to rinse it and a third for good measure. This ensures that you don't muddy up your colors by adding green to your reds. Another way to prevent muddy colors is to make sure that you only mix three colors from the same family (warm or cool) at the same time and to avoid mixing complimentary colors together. Read more about keeping your colors clean here:

#4. Add emotions to your paintings. There is something about this field, to me this is a very emotional painting. Although others may feel differently I feel like there is a silence and a calm to this painting. I achieved the calm with the blue sky and the direction and position of the clouds. Objects that are horizontal evoke calm feelings and the blue sky is also a relaxing color. However, there is also something a little unsettling about it. Some people may feel differently, but I feel alone and just a little on edge like a child alone in a field. The jagged stalks of grass give the effect of unease and the orange sky gives a subtle hint of danger. I feel like a child because the point of view in this painting is very low. I all works together to create a strange and moody painting. Read more on how to create emotion in your painting here: http://www.imaginefx.com/02287754332632571061/tutorial.pdf

#5. Repeat patterns, but not exactly. Repetitive patterns are very pleasing to the eye. However, if they are exactly the same, they become boring. Make sure that you mix it up, as you see in the trees in the painting on the right. They are all similar in pattern, but no two are exactly the same. Something to remember is to continuously vary the pattern. None of the trees are the same height or width, none are the same distance apart and the color (although you can't tell in this photo) also changes from tree to tree. This variety is interesting and pleasing to the eye.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Listing and shipping on ETSY - My Thoughts

I am trying to create an easier system for myself to list and ship on etsy. Although I haven't made all that many sales, I have learned a number of things through trial and error and through reading other blogs and forums.

* Research the item that you intend to sell. I think that it is important to know if you plan to sell a pendant for $20 and everyone else is selling similar ones for $10 - you may want to know that. It also helps to know how others describe the item, what their pictures look like etc.

* Figure out a good time to list. There are two opposing thoughts that I have on this. One is to list is when the treasury is 700 or more. Many people list when treasuries are about to open up and your listing will quickly be lost on page 20. There are some who feel that the best time to list is right before a treasury opens up so that you have a better chance to get in one, and therefor a chance at making the front page. Try both, it is certainly fin to be in a treasury, but it is also nice if a listing isn't lost in the hundreds of others too quickly.

* If you want to increase your chances of getting in a treasury, make sure you include colors, and descriptive words like miniature or sunny. Treasuries are chosen by themes, so add tags that really describe your work (this is a good idea anyway.)

* Put thought into your title. A humorous title always catches me, but make sure that it is catchy and descriptive. Think about the way you shop. What would entice you? Believe in your products, and give them a worthy title. Example: " Six ounce bar soap, vanilla scented," doesn't attract as much as " All natural bar soap, richly scented warm vanilla." Put plenty of thought into a great title.

* Photos are EVERYTHING. Their importance can't be over stated. Buyers can't hold your product, the photo needs to 'tell' them a lot. Crisp, clean and interesting photos can be difficult to take. If you have a decent camera, that is a good start. A tripod is a good investment to get the clearest shot possible. Do not use flash, instead try to use natural light whenever possible. Go outside or at least take the photos near a window. Direct sun is too bright, so put tje product in the shade. I use a white sheet for the background of my photos. Keeping the background neutral makes sure that the attention stays on the product, where it should be.

* If you have taken the photos and they are clear and show the product at it's best - you can improve them even more. Visit
http://www.picnik.com/. You can straighten a photo, sharpen it, and their auto fix is truly amazing. Usually I just use the auto fix and that is all I need. It really will make your photos shine.

* Before you even think about listing, you need to make sure that you know the cost of the shipping to where ever you ship to. I usually use http://postcalc.usps.gov/ to calculate the shipping. Choose the package that you want to send your product in. I put in a state close to me, a state furthest from me and then one right in the middle. If you want to make it super easy, use flat rate shipping, it is the same for all of the US and the International rate is the same too. For flat rates, go here: http://www.usps.com/shipping/prioritymail.htm They even give you FREE boxes, order them here: http://shop.usps.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductCategoryDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10001&catalogId=10152&categoryId=13359

* Whether you choose to use flat rate, or ship in your own box, the packaging inside the box matters most. It should be attractive, and contain 'signature colors.' When you see black and red and white - you might think of Coca Cola. I know when I see red and blue I think of Petsmart (I'm in there a lot). Try to coordinate your packaging with your business card, and both with your banner. If you have all of this ready when you list the product, then when you have to ship it, it will be so much easier.

Don't have business cards, try Vista Print, you won't find a better price for the quality. I recently got 500 cards for $7.99!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Step by Step Painting "In a Field"

The majority of the painting will be sky, so I paint the background with Apple Barrel's "20751 Regency Blue." This is a super cheap craft paint and I am often asked why I use these paints at all. Usually, I use these in the first layer or two to create a less absorbant canvas. This really cuts down on the amount of more expensive paint I use. The canvas is primed with acrylic gesso, but it is still absorbent and sucks up paint very quicky. This really makes the surface much easier to work on.

There are times though that the painting is coming along very well with just the cheap craft acrylics, as in this painting, so I just continue to use it to complete the painting. The paintings come out very matte and I am always asked if the painting is done in pastel. If you are looking for a soft pastel effect, this is a good way to go about it.
I brush on the color with a large flat brush. Because I like to let the layers of acrylic dry in between layers to prevent cracking, I always have several other canvases that I prime while I am waiting. I have done paintings that have cracked because I was too impatient to wait for the first layer to dry. This is why I feel that it helps me to have several paintings planned, it just makes things easier for me. Below is one of the paintings that I am preparing that I will officially start within the coming week.

I like my colors to be super pure, so I have three buckets of water to rinse them in. The first has just a little bit of laundry detergent in it, to really get the brush clean. The other two have just water in them. If you are going to try this, I would highly recommend using big containers and changing the water frequently, I change mine after every painting. I use grey water so that I am still being environmentally conscious.

In this painting the sun is setting, or rising, whichever you prefer. The top of the sky is darker and a little greyer, so I use a lot of the regency blue and a little Folk Art's # 964 " Midnight" mixed together. At the top I use more of the Midnight and as I go down toward the field, I use more of the regency blue. This softens the sky.

The bottom of the painting is yellowish where the sun is setting. I use Craft Smart's #23633 "Yellow". I use it full strength at the bottom and as I go up I thin it with more and more water, once again giving that soft effect.

Using a super soft flat brush I mix a little of the yellow with My Studio's #72700 white to make some clouds.

The idea here is to keep the clouds VERY soft, so I lay on the whitish yellow and then add a lot of water and soften around the edges. As I get closer to the sun - the bottom of the painting I add more yellow to the clouds.

On the bottom of the painting I added some little background trees. I was 'into it' and forgot to take pics of this process. Basically, I used Apple Barrel's #20521 "Nutmeg Brown" and just made random little 'hills' on the very bottom of the painting. I softened the edges by adding some of the same yellow that is in the sunset. Anything that is far in the distance is always less detailed and contains more and more of the color of the sky (usually blue) as it recedes.
To add depth, I put Apple Barrel's #20512 "Burnt Umber" on top of the nutmeg brown, being careful to really blend out the edges and let plenty of the nutmeg brown show through. The more random you are with the pattern, the more it will look like trees. I mix a little Folk Art's artists' pigment #470 "Pure Black" in with the burnt umber and add that on top to create even more depth, always making sure that I am applying this randomly.

I felt that the sunset could use a little more warmth, so I added My Studio's # 72721 "Coral" to the very bottom and Craft Smart's # 23623 "Light Orange" just around the tree line on the very bottom. A lot of the process of painting involves looking at your work, making evaluations and then making adjustments accordingly. Remember that it will never be 'just the way you want it'. There will almost always be changes that you want to make. You can't go on making adjustments forever, you must decide that it is good enough and then move on. This was dificult for me, as I am a perfectionist, but I've come a long way.
I check my painting to see if any final adjustments need to be made to the background. Something to remember that makes painting infinately easier is that big shapes always come first and the details are always added last. It is SO frustrating to have to make changes to the background after you've added foreground detail and then have to do that detail all over again.
I am going to use my script liner to do the grass.

Load the liner with paint, test it on a piece of spare paper first to see how thin the line is and to get out the globs of paint. Then paint the straight lines for the grass using nutmeg brown, holding the brush at a low angle to create an even line.

After I have made a line for the stalk and for the little branches, I use a spotter to create the little seeds. These are a litte darker than the stalk and branches - so I use the burnt umber.

The leaves are larger and show highlights and shadows a little more. I paint the using a small round brush using the nutmeg brown and the burnt umber and even a little black for the shadowed areas. The highlight is light yellow.

These details are important, the little highlights and shadows, they can really make or break a painting. Be sure to take your time, and make sure that you ADD THE DETAILS LAST.

Brushes can be super expensive! Take good care of them. If you don't have time to wash them immeditately after you finish your painting, invest in a brush well, fill it with dye free, unscented laundry detergent and leave it overnight. If you leave any acrylic paint on your brushes it is impossible to get off without ruining your brushes.

Completed painting:

Summary of things to learn from this painting:

*To keep things soft by adding more medium (water in this case) to blend out the edges.

*As objects recede into the background, you see less and less detail and they take on more of the color of the atmosphere (blue most of the time, but yellow in this painting).

*Adding the little details, such as tiny shadows and highlights can really make a painting, but they must be added last. Add the big shapes first and then get smaller and smaller. The details are like sprinkles on a cupcake, they make a big difference in the appearance, but they aren't added until the very end.

* Let each layer of paint dry before adding another one. If it helps to have other projects to work on while you wait, then plan them ahead of time.

*It is important to have clean and pure colors. If you have the space, using 3 tubs of water, one with a little laundry detergent in it, the second one to rinse the soap and the third to make sure that it is truly free of soap will help to keep your colors 'unmuddied'.

* A brush well is a great place to let brushes soak if you don't have time to wash them right away. I keep one for my acrylic brushes and one for my oil brushes.