Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Warclub, a painting "work in progress" Day4

Hi Everyone,
I apologize for taking so long to get this posted. I had it ready last week and didn't have the time to get it photographed and posted. I still don't feel that it's 100% finished, but it's close enough to post if framed on my website as finished. Also, I will be replacing this photo with a sharper version in the next couple of days. I've started using a Canon 40D DSLR and, at least for me, the learning curve has been steep. I long for the days of my old point and shoot Olympus Camedia C-5050!! But enough of that.

Here is the latest version of "Walk Softly" ( formerly "The Warclub"):

I decided to rename it to something a bit more creative and to make a play on an old saying. I feel that the name of a painting should be as creative as the work itself. It has to work as a whole. And if you find that you don't like a painting's name, you can always rename it ( as long as it hasn't sold yet).

Most of the work that's been done on it since my last post has been detailing. Tightening the features of the face. Painting in the hands. Working varied color temps into his buckskin shirt. I added rawhide decorations and feathers around the handle of the club itself. I noticed that the original shirt the model was wearing had puffy cuffs, which works for fabric shirts, but not for buckskin warshirts. So I had to rework the ends of the sleeves to be more like a jacket with fringe. As I painted him I tried to keep the edges softer to keep the painting from being too brutal. I especially worked on getting the blade to glint in the sunlight. Adding that glow is a great way to get your focus from the Mountain Man to the club. I kept the background subdued so that he really pops. I still need to flesh that background out a touch. But I wanted to wait until I had the figure just about done. That way I can add only as much as I need without having it compete with the figure.


Monday, December 3, 2007

The Warclub, a painting "work in progress" Day3

Hi All,
Here is the progress I made during my second day of painting. I forgot to mention that this piece is 18X24.

As you can tell, I've done quite a bit to it since the last post, but the working process is always the same. Work the entire picture at once. I have rendered his face more and it doesn't look so blocked in. It is further along, but I still don't consider it finished. As I look at it, I realize the size of his nose has grown. It happens. I have a tendency to do that, so I will continue to perfect his face. To me, this is the most important part of any painting with a figure in it. the face has to be exactly right and painted tighter than the rest of the work. You just can't be sloppy with a face. I read somewhere once, and I've taken it as one of my mantras, "Don't accept something in your work that you wouldn't accept in someone else's work". If I look at a figurative painting or a character study and the face isn't right, I just assume that that was the best they could do. That they couldn't see the problem and couldn't paint it any better. I never want that to be the case on one of my paintings. As I work on it, I am continually looking at it in the reflection of a large mirror I have hung opposite my easel. This immediately lets me see any problems with drawing or perspective that my eyes have grown accustomed to. His Buckskin is also further along than it was, but I'm still working on it. I'm pretty happy with the front of his shirt, but his sleeves are still in process. I've barely begun to rough his right hand in, while his left hand is still a drawing. This part isn't concerning me right now, as I know what I want that to be like. The biggest change you are probably noticing is the background. As I let the painting sit for a couple of days last week, I became bothered by not having some kind of a background. I didn't want anything too distracting, but he needed to be in a setting. It came to me that many of the masters would paint in backgrounds that were not distracting by painting them in a more monochromatic technique. Something that was more than abstact and not as much as a full fledged distracting background. I liked what I had in the way of composition, so I worked with what I had as shapes, and just fleshed them out a bit. Adding trees and a field, always making sure the rhythm and balance was working. I was also very aware to keep the focus on the mountain man by keeping this the lightest/darkest area. This is where it ended up. It's a much more pleasing and satisfying painting with placing him in a wild setting. I will continue to fine tune it. I've hinted at the fringe on his shirt. Probably the only thing I consider finished on this is his beard, the wooden part of his warclub, his shirt front and his head wrap. Everything else is closer to completion than it was, and in a better place, but still very much a work in progress. Thanks for checking in.

Happy Painting, Steve

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Warclub, a painting "work in progress" Day 2

Hi Everyone,
Here are the results of my first day of actual painting on "The Warclub". I thought long and hard about how to approach the finish on this painting. There were many ways I could have gone. One way I considered taking it was to put a full blown background in. But I ruled this out almost immediately since I felt that even a simple setting would have detracted from the strength of the focal point, which is the club wielding mountain man. Then I thought about putting him on a dark background of deep green or some other compliment that would pop him off the background. A better choice than the first, but I ruled this out in the end because it might have been too tranquil a background for this painting. The thing I kept coming back to in my mind is that this is a brutal, almost prehistoric kind of weapon and it required a background with some slashing life to it.

So I brushed on a transparent layer of raw umber and earth green near the figure, then used a brush to fleck and slash it with turpentine. The turp lifted the wet paint, dripped in places and created a wonderful effect of a stone like texture. Just the background that this painting needed to give it some life, but not overwhelm. Everything is loosely painted at this point and nothing is finished. the hands are still only drawings. The subject from which I am painting was wearing a bright blue fabric shirt. Way too blue to be period correct, so I changed it to a buckskin coat and will be adding fringe along his shoulders. Buckskin is thicker than fabric and the folds have to be painted in a more rounded softer manner than the fabric would be painted. I've also added a couple of beaded strips down the front of his coat. This lets you know this is indeed a western mountain man and that he possibly has a native wife somewhere. I will be letting the shadow part of his coat melt into the background colors. This gives it a more pleasing effect and doesn't draw unneeded attention. At this point, I'm just trying to get everything in so I can judge what it needs and can do without. I'm really trying to avoid putting in unneeded details and really orchestrating what I want you to see.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Warclub, a painting "work in progress"

Hi Everyone,
I've decided to do something a little different this time. I've had some inquiries about the process I use on my figurative pieces, so I thought it might be fun to do a post which follows along as I work on a piece. I will take a photo at the end of each sessionof my painting and explain what I've gotten accomplished in each session. I don't know if this piece will be successful, but that's the way it is with every piece that artist's do. There are no guarantees.

This painting will be called "The Warclub". This mountain man is holding a particularly nasty native american weapon called a warclub. We don't know how he came to have it. He may have won it on the field of battle, or just stumbled across it while traveling the wild country. This weapon was feared and was particularly effective in battle. I guess you can see why. It was made out a a plank of wood, two wicked blades stuck out of the side and it was decorated with brass studs, horsehair twine, beads, and at times, feathers.

This is the way I start most of my figurative paintings. I'm using Claessins #166 acrylic primed linen. I tone my canvas with yellow ocher acrylic paint. Not always, but usually. Then I begin to draw on the canvas with hard vine charcoal. I draw lightly at first, but because it's vine charcoal, it wipes away very easily, so corrections are easy to make. At this stage everything is very fluid. One thing I have learned is that a drawing can look just right when you draw it, but once it's framed it can feel off. And if it doesn't feel right, it's wrong. So, sometimes I will do my drawing while I have the frame around it, or sometimes I look at it framed after the drawing is fairly well along. Here is the drawing in the frame to check how it balances. I always try to use the frame it will be sold in. That way there are no surprises.

Everything is loose at this time, in fact I keep it loose for as long as I can.

Here is a close-up of the head. Here you can see that I've kept the drawing to major areas of lights and darks. Why put in all that detail, if you're just going to cover it up in the block in?

This is the end of my first session. The drawing took 1 1/2 - 2 hours and was done at the end of a full painting day, or I would have started the painting.


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Sketchbooks, the key to painting better.

Hi Everyone

Occasionally a beginning painter will ask me how to speed up the time it takes for them to paint better. I only know what works for me.... the basics. Everyday I try to set aside some time to draw. There isn't any magic potion for me. I'm a grinder. It doesn't come easy for me and I have to work at it everyday, and probably always will. I don't possess a photographic memory ( at least if I do, I don't remember that I do), so working on finding that shorthand to record what I see, or rather, how accurately I see, is a matter of practice. Of course drawing from life is best, and I do that whenever I can. This sketchbook page to the left was done sitting on a bench at the Lake Harriet Rose Garden, just minutes from my house. But often a hectic schedule keeps me from going out as much as I would like. In that case, I use anything I have at hand to draw from, magazines, books, catalogs, and photos I've taken. I even draw from some of my favorite websites. Since I'm not selling these sketches and am not profiting from them, I'm not infringing on anyone's copyrights.

There was a time, long ago, when I first started drawing that it wasn't much fun. But that doesn't last too long (only about a year I think). Before long, you will see yourself making progress, and the things that you couldn't do become second nature. I read somewhere that most people give up the new things they are trying to do, just before they would make a breakthrough, and so never succeed. But if you stick with it and are kind to yourself, soon you will look forward to your time with your pencil. I'm going to post some pages from my sketchbooks here to give you an idea as to the different things I draw and the goals I set for myself. Almost always these drawings are loose and don't take a lot of time. Some are looser than others. The goal of a sketchbook is to do quick little studies and train your eye to see size space relationships. The goal is not to create finished drawings to sell or hang on your wall. Oh, and remember, you can click on any image you see for a larger view.

The sketches to the left were done to work out the best composition on a painting idea. I do these all the time. 5-10 minutes on these kinds of sketches will save you a lot of false starts on your easel and wasted time. I also do these when I'm painting on location, and I would recommend if you paint outside too, that you give it a try. You will know immediately if your composition is strong enough to support a painting. Also, I do move things around to make a better painting, so this kind of drawing lets you work it out beforehand. I try different layouts and dimensions too. Sometimes your first idea isn't your best and this will force you to try out new looks and get away from your usual solutions.

Same with these quick sketches, just a compositional exercise. Sometimes I will fire off a sketch when I get an idea for a painting, just so I don't forget my idea. "Sunscreen" was one of these sketches. Two older folks getting ready to get into their canoe for a day on the water, take a moment to apply sunscreen to each other. Along the Treeline was another compositional sketch to work out getting the focal point clear in my mind.

This photo had potential for a painting, but was too busy and lacked a place for your eye to rest.

so I did a sketch that added a field at the bottom of the canyon, which solved my problem. It isn't fancy or detailed, but that's not what I needed it for. Here is the finished painting. I used this sketch to refer to as I laid out the underpainting. I only used it as a shorthand drawing.


These drawings, on the other hand, are purely about sketching and training your eye and brain to see size and space relationships. For me this is so very important in my painting. To paint well, you have to be able to see well. If something in your painting seems wrong but you don't quite know what the problem is, you probably have a drawing problem. It doesn't matter how well something is painted, if you aren't accurate in your relationships, you will not be successful. Sorry, but that's just how it is. Being able to draw gives me that ability to see. For me, I make the most progress in training my eye, by doing lots of quick sketches rather than one long labored drawing. I keep a small handheld mirror close by to view my sketch in reverse and make sure I'm on target. Using one of these babies will give you a fresh eye when you've been looking at your drawing for too long and your eye has grown used to your mistakes. Looking at your sketch in the mirror will quickly show you where you've gone wrong so you can correct it. I tend to draw a lot of nudes in these drawings since I find human anatomy to be the most unforgiving subject. If you've gotten it wrong, even just a little, you will usually know it. But don't feel that you have to draw nudes. I draw anything and everything. Whatever I'm interested in, or feel I need to work on is fair game, as you will see.

I'm constantly drawing horses and horse anatomy. I like to paint them and must be familiar with their anatomy enough to get it right. In so many ways horse anatomy is every bit as challenging as human anatomy. Even more so for me, because I'm not as familiar with it, so sometimes the mistakes aren't as easy for me to see.

In my sketches of the stray dog that my parents adopted, I was only concerned with getting his gesture and expression. These were quick and not labored.

I love doing the quick character studies of some of the reenactors I meet at the rendezvous I attend. This carpet bagger had a great look. Again, this is quick and I don't labor to get everything exactly right. I'm much more interested in getting something down quickly and getting my eye and brain to intuitively see relationships, angles, and to simplify values.

More quick drawings, though longer than a pure gesture drawing. Don't get distracted by unimportant detail. Also, start out drawing light enough so that you can make adjustments as you need to. I'm constantly making corrections as I go. Same with painting. Martin Greele says something to the effect that painting is a series of corrections. The same is definitely true of drawing.

This is about as long a pose as I will do in my sketchbooks, probably about 1-1 1/2 hours.

I also like to put multiple images on each page. And I work at trying to make it pleasing to look at as a whole, I guess it's the Designer/Illustrator in me.

Well, that's all for now, I hope this gives you some inspiration to pick up your sketchbook and pencil and dive right in. You won't regret it and your paintings will be much easier for you to do.

Happy painting, Steve

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Use RSS feed to be first and informed

Let's say you have a favorite artist (or ten) who's website or blog you like to visit. But who has time every day to jump to their artist's site to check if any new work has been posted. Well now RSS feeds can put you in control. Before I get to the why you should care, let's take a moment to talk about the what question first. What on earth is RSS? (Also known as Subscribe To: Posts (Atom) at the bottom of this page. It's the same thing to you and I.)

What are RSS feeds? Perhaps you've seen text or image buttons on various websites inviting you to "subscribe via RSS." Well, what does that mean exactly? What is RSS, what are RSS feeds, and how do you get them to work for you?

What is RSS? Short for Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary, this handy service is revolutionizing the way we search for content. There's nothing complicated about RSS; just think of it as a way that websites come to you, the reader, with content, instead of you having to check up on them. Every time content is updated by your chosen website, a "feed" is activated, and then you can view these "feeds" (it's just a fancy way of saying content) in a feed reader. It's kind of like subscribing to a newspaper. Website feeds get delivered to you in your RSS reader, and you get to read them (We'll get to feed readers in just a minute!).

RSS feeds benefit artists like me too, since I can get my new work and new blogs to subscribers, like you, fast, by submitting feeds to various RSS directories (such as Google Reader).

What does this mean for you? Sure, that sounds interesting, but why is it for me?

Simply put, it means that you are in control and informed about any new artwork that's loaded. Also, if you RSS subscribe to my blog (musings) you will know as soon as I put up an new post of my ramblings. When I post it, you'll know it. Simple as that. OK, says you, I'm an artformation junkie and that sounds like it's for me. What do I do next? Luckily that's simple too. Step on is to Let's talk about RSS readers.

What Are RSS Readers? What are RSS readers and do I need one?

Basically, RSS readers are the programs used to view your RSS feed subscriptions. In other words, it's a way to clump all your RSS feeds from various websites, like all your favorite artists, into one handy dandy little interface. For example, the web browser I use is Firefox and when I subscribe to a RSS feed, it automatically shows up in my bookmark menu. Most people however, use another browser, so to make this really simple I'll use Google reader as an example, though there are many readers available. I like Google Reader, because there is nothing to download and best of all, it's FREE!

To use Google Reader, you'll need a Google account. Once you've signed in, you can access all the other nifty Google services such as Froogle, GMail. Here is a quick and easy link you can use to sign up at Google to begin using your Google Reader.
Google Account sign up.

Once you have your account, you can begin using your Reader to access all those websites that have feeds which sound interesting to you. By the way, RSS feeds are great for your favorite news sites. Now you can be the one to announce to the rest of the office that Paris was arrested again, or that there's a rumor that Britney was seen coming out of Chuck E Cheese in Boca Raton. Imagine the possiblilities! While you're at it, don't forget to add your favorite artist's sites.

So if you're interested, take a moment to subscribe to my feed by clicking the Subscribe to: Posts (Atom) link at the bottom of this page and you won't miss another post.

...what do you mean Britney's lawyers are on the phone? I didn't start that rumor.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bosque Conservatory 2007 Art Show

Hi Everyone,
In September the Bosque Conservatory in Clifton, Texas, held it's 22nd annual Art Classic Competition. Out of more than 1200 entries, 200 works of art were chosen to be included in this years show. The Juror of Awards for this show was nationally renowned artist George Hallmark.

Before I get too far into talking about the show, I should tell you a little about the art scene in Clifton, Texas and Bosque County. In the middle of a sparsely populated area of Texas at the north edge of the Hill Country is historic Clifton Texas. Considered one of the “100 Best Small Art Towns in America,” Clifton has attracted such renowned artists as the late James Boren, the late Melvin Warren, Bruce Greene, Martin Grelle, George Hallmark, Tony Eubanks and George Boutwell. Many of those artists have exhibited or taught at the Bosque Conservatory. In this unlikely hard workin' no nonsense town, is the crown jewel of the Arts that is the Bosque Conservatory.

I learned about the show from my good friend Scott Myers who himself was the purchase award winner in years past. He told about the high quality of the entries in the show. The great prize money that is awarded. But mostly he told me about the people who run the Conservatory and their dedication to promoting high quality representational art. He wasn't stretching the truth.


After I had entered seven pieces in the show and had gotten the phone call after the judging that I had won the Jones Purchase Award, one of the hardest things I had to do was to keep the good news to myself for the next two months until it was announced on opening night. Well, I kept it mostly to myself. Four entries are required to be eligible to win the John Steven Jones Purchase Award. This award is given to one piece of art in the show each year, along with a $5,000.00 check. In return, the painting is added to the Conservatory's permanent collection of paintings and sculpture. The award is in memory of Roland and Joyce Jones' son who died in a traffic accident. Their intent is to make the monetary award large enough that high quality artists are attracted to enter the show. And the reason that a minimum of 4 entries are required to be eligible, is to ensure that the painting entered wasn't a one time piece of luck. It ensures that the artist is competent in their chosen medium. You are only allowed to win this award once, and then you become ineligible to win again. Five of my entries were accepted into the show. The two that were rejected were the two that I thought had the best chance of getting in and maybe even winning the Jones Award. It just goes to show that you never can tell what the judge is looking for. Thank goodness for the requirement of the extra pieces. Here are the pieces that were accepted in the show along with the awards they were given.

Promise of Another Summer, John Steve Jones Purchase Award. 20X16, Oil on Linen.

Come Back to Bed, 2nd place, Oil painting. 8X10, oil on Gessoed Panel.

Mending, 1st Place, Pastel/Color Pencil. 16X12,Pastel on Archival Sanded Board.

Spring on Partridge Creek, 20X16, oil on linen

Autumn in Buffalo Valley, 12X16, Oil on Linen Panel.


Ann and I flew into DFW and drove down to Clifton, where we were invited to stay with Art Collectors and Patrons Joyce and Roland Jones, who's hospitality knew no limits. We accepted their invitation greatfully and boy were we glad we did. They opened their home to us as though we were long lost relatives. They fed and housed us. And they showed us their beautiful collection of original art, which would make any museum drool. I had a hard time going to bed, cause I just wanted to drink in all those wonderful paintings and sculptures. The mornings were wonderfully cool with mist hanging over the ranch. Here are the angus cattle slowly making their way across the mist shrouded distant fields.

Our days were filled with sightseeing and lots of picture taking for reference. Here are two of the paintings I did from our time at the ranch.

Bosque Canyon Vista, 11X14 oil on linen panel.

Hill Country Moonlight, 12X16 oil on linen

This show was every artist's dream come true. From the moment we arrived, everyone treated us so special. The show was spectacular, and I was proud just to be included with so many other wonderful artists. There was plenty of time to get aquainted with everyone and to make lots of new friends. Unfortunately, I was so intent on talking, I forgot to take many pictures of the show space and people mingling. Most of the photos I got that night, were given to me by friends. Here are some of the photos I have.

Joyce and Roland's grandkids and their significant others came down for the show.

...now where is that business card........

...oh, here it is!! Here I am networking and getting to know some of the guests.

Gregory Beck, Me and Jeff Gottfried. These guys both won awards in the Sculpture Category. Gregory took Second while Jeff got First Place and the Cap Award. Their work was so very different, but both are incredibly gifted. I hate saying gifted, cause it sounds like there is no work involved and it just comes naturally. Gifted artists tell me, there is very little good work that comes easily.

Here are some of the award winners:

Mike Evans, Watercolor First Place.

The very talented painter Mike Irvin, accepting the Peoples Choice Award.

Cindy Long accepting her award for her Drawing category First Place winner.
She is a magician with the pencil.

I can't remember the last time I smiled so much.

A nice surprise....

....I had no idea that I had received awards other than the purchase award. Everyone involved with the show decided to keep that to themselves. I didn't have a clue and almost passed out as I walked around. Joyce had a great time watching as I made the award discoveries.

The reason this whole dream night was possible for me are all standing next to me. Scott and Kathi Myers are on the far left. Scott is a great painter and a Jones winner himself. I would never ever have heard about this show, if it hadn't been for him. Thank you for being so open and supportive, not to mention taking the time to drive all the way down from Granbury to attend the show. And, next to me, the woman who means the world to me, my wife Ann.

Our friends, hosts, and very generous patrons, Roland and Joyce Jones.

Two of my very favorite things in the world, relaxing and talking art. The morning after a very hectic show opening.

Thanks for indulging me in this chance to relive a very important night in my life. My sincerest thanks go out to Joyce and Roland Jones, George Hallmark, the talented artists and patrons who showed up and were so supportive of the work. And of course, thanks to everyone who volunteers their time and opens their pocketbooks to make the Bosque Conservatory a reality. Because of your support of representational art, you help to make the world a better and more beautiful place to live in.

Happy Painting, Steve

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Up and Running

Hi All,
This is my first of many blogs that will enable us to get to know each other. I have felt the need for this blog as a compliment to my website www.steveatkinsonstudio.com which is my painting website where I post all my latest paintings that are for sale, as well as other information, such as my resume and bio. Not to mention, links to galleries and my links page where you can find some truly great painters, framers and professional organizations.

Thanks for looking, Steve