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The Secret of Painting from Life

The Secret of Painting from Life

If you want to see the world as spectacular as it is, take a walk in the forest with an artist. The painter’s eye is more sensitive and receives a vast amount more information than a normal person who is seeing the same view. When students first come to my classes, within weeks they report that they have never before seen the world “in color” as they are able to do now and that painting has opened their eyes to the beauty that surrounds them.

The first assignment for new students who come to my classes is to paint a white egg on a white plate that is sitting on a white table cloth. This exercise requires that they really look at their subject before beginning to paint. Most students look at the setup and only see white. Then, with coaching, they look deeper and see that white has little to do with painting eggs at all. At this point, their consciousness has undergone a small expansion and the artist has increased awareness about the painting process. Once the shadows are discovered, then and only then, can the student focus his awareness on the effects that light has on the subject matter.

After that, it is the composition that commands the focus. Gradually or suddenly, the realization that the artist is the one directing the viewer’s perception and that perception can be directed to only one thing at a time. We can not see light, shadow and color at the same time.  And we cannot see composition, temperature, and air with just a single glance. We cannot see the windshield and the road at the same time. Creating art is like juggler trying to keep 15 balls in the air.  It’s no wonder that artists begin painting from photos just to make the process easier. But when an artist paints from photos, something is lost, and the connection between the artist and subject is disconnected, filtered and dumbed down.

When setting up a still life in your studio, the setup must be created just as it you want it to appear in your painting. If you want your painting to have a dark wall with Japanese print wallpaper in the background, you must carefully set up the still life subject using the same objects, values and colors. If you are going to add something red, it must be placed into the composition you are working from before you begin your painting so that everything appears on the “stage” just as you want it to appear in your painting.

Also, when painting a still life, lighting the stage is as complicated and as important as setting up the composition. I am amazed that many artists who paint from life often don’t have a proper light to work with.  Having a light that can be adjusted to be brighter or dimmer, that is easy to move around the studio, and that has a stand that allows the light to be moved up and down is as essential as setting the stage. It is also helpful to have a light that has a barn door attachment that can dim and focus the light stream, or a light that can be dimmed or made stronger with a dimmer switch. Without the ability to adjust the lighting, you can not produce a masterpiece.

All of these elements and many more are important to your success as a still life painter long before you even lay your first brush stroke down. Imagine what it would be like to be that familiar with your subject before you start painting!  Then, you can enjoy experimenting and noticing what happens as you really see what you are painting; and once you do,  you may never work from photos again!

 

Composition ~ The Foundation of a Painting

I woke this morning with the feeling that something had changed.  The air felt a little crisper, the sky looked a little darker and I could smell the earthy scent of leaves scattered on the ground in the woods. Yes, this is the feeling of fall, my favorite time of year! To celebrate the season, this year I am offering a September workshop that includes painting outdoors with a focus on Composition.

An important element in a painting is a good compostion which includes line, balance, movement, abstract form and many other details that are needed to create a great painting. Composition combined with other aspects of painting helps artists achieve their goals of creating pictorial unity.  To do this, one must understand what to include and exclude in a painting and how to focus the viewer’s attention on what the artist wants the viewer to experience.

A good painting requires the effective use of the concept, variety, rhythm, repetition, unity, balance and harmony in its composition. The first step to achieve this begins with an accurate drawing of the subject or scene that also includes the relative values and potential colors to be used in the painting.

When you begin a painting, the first thing to consider is if the subject is worth while. Is there something about what you are painting that will enhance or educate the viewer’s experience?  Does it wake up the viewer’s mind and go beyond the mere making of a picture?  Sometimes selecting subjects that are simple are better then overly complicated views.

Try to find a subject that has large masses or chunks. Then, by squinting your eyes, you will be able to identify the relative values of the masses in your painting, and ultimately see four or five value planes which form the foundation of your composition. Artists often start by painting these chunks of value instead of painting the landscape’s details or sky. Once the value chunks are painted in, the artist can open his eyes a bit more and draw the subtle details in each chunk.  At this time, color is not a concern as long as the rules of aerial prospective are observed, (things get lighter as they recede into the distance.)  The effectiveness of large, simple masses produce a direct and immediate structure in a painting, and the result creates appealing and striking arrangements of masses and designs that inspire the viewer.

Painting requires practice that is ongoing throughout the life of an artist. Every journey begins with the first step, and I invite you to come to Mt. Shasta for an experience of a life time.  Fall workshops at The Grand View Ranch are exceptional. Autumn is a special season when thousands of dogwoods and oak trees change their green summer foliage to orange and golden yellows, and the sun begins and ends lower on the horizon extending its shadows onto the landscape making it the most perfect time to paint on location.

During every workshop I challenge my students to stretch their comfort levels and learn new painting techniques and applications.  In this way, students have opportunities to enhance the way they see and paint more effectively on location.

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Anxiety When Painting in Public

Artists often take for granted that a vista or interesting subject will always be there to paint. We pass by places and say to ourselves, “Someday I will come back to paint that.” Sometimes the reluctance to set up and paint in populated neighborhoods is linked to a feeling of anxiety about failing to paint successfully when others are present or of being judged negatively when painting in public.
 
I remember when I passed by this little cabin located in the middle of the town of Mt. Shasta year after year. This abandoned cabin was built around 1905 and was one of the first structures in Mt Shasta. Because it was located so close to a pond, the cabin began to sink and fall apart. Last year I finally took the time to paint it. This was a bit of a departure for me because I usually paint scenes high in the mountains by myself. But on this day, I had to set up my easel in the middle of a bike lane with cars driving by, with runners passing around me as they jogged by, while others stopped to see what I was doing and had conversations with me.

Needless to say, I experienced anxiety and had many thoughts about failing to paint well and embarrassing myself; thoughts like “What if I can’t paint the cabin well enough to look like it should look,” or “what if my neighbor passes by, stops and sees that my painting sucks.”

Artists can feel discouraged and avoid painting in public if they listen to their anxiety. The truth is every artist feels fearful and anxious at some time. It is part of the excitement/fear of doing anything that is really important to us. It is what makes great actors give great performances. And the good news is that it is possible to learn how to manage your fear, self-doubt and anxiety. After many years of painting outdoors and in town, I have learned how to reduce my anxiety by filling my mind with positive, empowering, and encouraging thoughts.

Of course, I would rather paint next to group of wild bears high in the Sierras than oil paint on a sidewalk in town. But bears don’t interact with me. I find that my anxiety when I paint in public is often replaced with a feeling of pride when someone passes by and says “Wow, I wish I could paint outside like that!” Painting is a noble and challenging activity. You will be surprised at how many people actually admire you and want to talk with you about what it’s like to paint outside  in public places.

Remember, when you paint, you have the satisfaction of doing something you love to do that few others can do, and that your attempt is better that not painting at all.  Soon your anxiety will be replaced by feelings of courage and pride in yourself; and with practice, your paintings will get better, too. We frequently regret what we don’t do in life, and regret is far worse to live with than a bit of anxiety.

By the way, the little cabin that I painted was torn down just a week after I painted it. I am so pleased that I seized the opportunity to paint it that day! Life is richer when we live with the victories of accomplishment rather than the regrets of what might have been.

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Plein air and alla prima artist Stefan Baumann, host of the PBS painting series “The Grand View, America’s National Park through the eyes of an artist” and author of “Observations Of Art and Nature,” travels in his vintage travel trailer painting America’s western landscape. Baumann paints outdoors with oils and canvas capturing stunning vistas, wildlife, western landscapes, National Parks and still life, thrilling art collectors throughout the world. He has many international collectors acquiring his paintings as investments. His painting style is called Romantic Realism with Luminism, and the extraordinary way he captures the effect of light is a truly American style used to paint the Western landscape. He can be seen plein air painting in Yellowstone, Yosemite and in the Grand Canyon. Baumann’s “how to paint” DVDs filmed on location in the National Parks are the very best on the market.

The post Anxiety When Painting in Public appeared first on Stefan Baumann – The Grand View: Paintings by Stefan Baumann.

Capturing Light in your Paintings

Sunset at Panther Meadows, Mt. Shasta

The smoke from the fires in Northern California is extreme. At times you can see only a mile ahead and it has made it difficult to feel inspired to paint outdoors. The dense smoke and ash falling from the sky constantly reminds me the losses others are suffering during this summer of great drought and fires.

During the last few nights, the smoke lifted allowing me to steal away with my new Strada Pochade box to paint on the slopes of Mt Shasta. The smoke in the atmosphere blends with the light of the setting sun creating a beautiful “alpine glow” lighting effect on Mt Shasta, making the light seem even more spectacular than usual. The smoke adds a subtle color to the atmosphere and it is this pollution that we see in the paintings of Albert Bierstadt and Frederic Church. Not only did these early artists live in a time of great wildfires on the plains, they also had the resulting pollution generated from occasional volcanic eruptions.

It has been my experience that the best time to paint is in the morning and evening. The angle of the sun at these times of day creates the best shadows and interesting light patterns. Painting in the evening is my favorite time to paint on location. The light travels slower and the colors are more vivid than any other time of day. I have extra time to think of a concept, set the stage with a sketch, and mix colors before I begin painting the subject. This first 10 minutes of preparation before painting is critical and mandatory. I encourage students in my plein air workshops to take even more time before sketching their composition. Light, as I explain in my You Tube videos and at my Plein Air Workshops, is essential when creating a stunning painting. In fact, a painting without the effect of light will be a painting of things – a rock, a tree, a mountain, etc. Great artists don’t paint things, they paint the effects of the light and how it illuminates things to make a stunning, eye-catching painting.

I had the good fortune of witnessing the sun setting from my studio window at The Grand View Ranch and saw an awesome lighting effect generated by the light filtering through the smoke from the fires in Northern California. I knew that if the smoke cleared, the colors of the sky the following evening would be amazing. I am always looking for stunning locations with good lighting to share with students when they attend my painting workshops in Mt. Shasta. One location that I have been looking forward to exploring for years is called Panther Meadows. This place is considered sacred by many people around the world, and I am amazed by the number of people who travel here to see Mt. Shasta and to learn the secrets of painting on location.

These are a few pointers that we talk about during the workshop:
Begin by painting footnotes where the light and dark patterns are.
Squint! Squinting softens your focus to see value and not color.
Paint the shadows patterns first because they will change rapidly outdoors. Link the shadows together to simplify the pattern.
Establish the main color of the light source.
Establish the main color of the shadow of the distant value.
Look for the lightest light and the darkest dark and see if you can increase the contrast to create strong contrast and excitement in your painting.
Determine the central focal point and limit your central focal point to one strong idea somewhere in the middle of the painting.
Make sure your first color note is accurate and compare every additional color note to that.

Tragically this summer wildfires have burned many locations in the west; however there is a silver lining for the artist. The effects generated by the smoke-filtered light can produce stunning effects in your paintings. So, go out and paint. And if you need some additional motivation, attend my workshop in October in Mount Shasta. The information is located under Workshops on my website at www.StefanBaumann.com.

(Note: The Strada outdoor pochade box is fantastic! It is sturdy and strong with very little shaking and rattling like my Open Box M. It is easy to set up and to clean. Strada has made a modern quality box that fixes issues that I have had with Plein Air Boxes made with wood, springs and screws.)

                                                         _______________________________________________________

Plein air and alla prima artist Stefan Baumann, host of the PBS painting series “The Grand View, America’s National Park through the eyes of an artist” and author of “Observations Of Art and Nature,” travels in his vintage travel trailer painting America’s western landscape. Baumann paints outdoors with oils and canvas capturing stunning vistas, wildlife, western landscapes, National Parks and still life, thrilling art collectors throughout the world. He has many international collectors acquiring his paintings as investments. His painting style is called Romantic Realism with Luminism, and the extraordinary way he captures the effect of light is a truly American style used to paint the Western landscape. He can be seen plein air painting in Yellowstone, Yosemite and in the Grand Canyon. Baumann’s “how to paint” DVDs filmed on location in the National Parks are the very best on the market.

The post Capturing Light in your Paintings appeared first on Stefan Baumann – The Grand View: Paintings by Stefan Baumann.

Studio Paintings from Plein Air Sketches

 

Studio Paintings from Plein Air Sketches

Painting, including landscape painting, has historically been an indoor art, and it wasn’t until the heyday of Impressionism did painting outdoors become the norm. Just recently, painting plein air has become a very popular style of painting that in itself stands alone as a practice. I have been taking students out to paint on location since 1980 before the word Plein Air was used. We called it Painting from Nature or location painting. Prior to the Impressionists, any outdoor painting practice was distinctly subordinate to studio work. Remember, in a time before cameras, all paintings that were created in the studio were painted directly from models or from drawings made outside along with sketches in watercolor, pastel and paint. Few paintings done on location were ever offered for sale because they belonged to the artist as references for larger studio works or as a diary for recording their experiences outdoors.

I believe in the principle that every pictorial invention must be rooted in observation, and I use En Plein Air painting as a practice of visual note taking, recording and drawing the slightest details of a leaf or limb to the most detailed record of a full autumn tree. Spending time studying the subtitles of nature is the true reward of painting from nature.

Sketching has been fundamental to an artist’s practice since the Renaissance. My Etudes or studies are my records of nature, directly observed. Many are completed studies while others are just sketches for something even more fabulous that’s created in the studio. In the painting “Silence Broken,” I used my location sketches as well as sketches of Elk from my journeys in the wild, along with my knowledge of the anatomy of Elk to create the studio painting of a subject I feel very passionate about ~ wildlife as it appears in nature.

October 1, 2014

I was exploring the northern flank of Mt. Shasta as I sketched the hillsides. It has been rumored that a small Elk herd had wandered up the northern slope of the Mt. Shasta foothills. Larry, a seasoned hunter and animal lover was my guide. We ventured from Old Military Road towards Mt. Shasta following endless trails of Elk and Deer tracks that meandered through the Manzanita, and all the trails led to dead ends. Along the way, my artistic senses were on overload as beautiful redwood and white fir trees made their grand stance along beautiful canyons and waterfalls. The smell of wildflowers filled the air and I was inspired to sketch everything. Except for the quiet buzz of Cicadas that were everywhere, the forest was quiet. All of a sudden the silence was broken by a bugling Elk telling us that this was his terrain and our presence was not welcome. His eyes were fixated on ours. His massive chest thrust outward with every sound that he made. His every movement was poised and determined like a great matador in a bull fight but this time I was the bull and he was the matador. With great respect, we retreated, but not until I sketched this magnificent animal to recreate in my studio.

Painting on location is a wonderful discipline and a fascinating painting practice. I find it incredibly stimulating and enjoyable to experience the feeling of being absorbed in careful observation. And when I sketch on location, I love forming the foundation for a great painting like “Silence Broken” that I finish later in my studio.

In the upcoming workshops in Mt. Shasta, I will talk more about the history of Plein Air painting and how it can be an interesting and creative practice where a painting can be completed either on location or can be the beginning of a great studio painting.

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What Makes a Great Plein Air Painting?

 

“Illumination of Mt. Shasta from Tule Lake”

National Wildlife Refuge

What Makes a Great Plein Air Painting?

Mount Shasta is a beautiful and diverse area that offers some of America’s most dramatic, stunning vistas in a location that is sparsely inhabited. Located in Northern California, Mt Shasta is where I chose to create a special place for Plein Air artists to learn and practice the art of painting from nature. Mount Shasta offers plein air artists unlimited sources of beautiful locations waiting to be captured with paint and canvas and I will be offering several Plein Air Workshops in this area during the next few months.

What makes a great painting? Better yet, how can you paint a great painting on location in a period of two hours? How do you take the guess work out of creating a powerful work of art that will leave a lasting impression with the viewer, and do it without guessing or hoping that you’ll get it right or wasting time repainting it over and over? How can you leave a location with powerful painting every time? It begins with have a basic knowledge of Composition, Chunking, Checkering, Eye magnets, Color harmony, Color mixing, knowing how the brain sees, CFP, Mediums, Structure, Aerial Perspective, and Temperature. This may seem daunting and yet, if you paint without understanding all of the basics, you’re probably going to feel disappointed. Painting requires a developed skill and an understanding of the basic concepts that have been handed down from artist to artist for generations.

The one most powerful piece of advice that I can give an artist is “Remember why you chose this place to paint. Remember the moment that you said “here!” and began to set up your easel. That’s the moment you want to capture.” In the painting “Illumination of Mt. Shasta from Tule Lake,” I was traveling to Klamath Falls from Mt. Shasta early in the morning, taking a road that went by Tule lake. The sun had just crested the earth and Mt. Shasta was illuminated on the horizon with a stunning light that invited me to stop, set up my easel and paint. The morning sun changes quickly in the summer so I had to constantly remember the moment that caused me to stop and set up my easel. When we paint in the morning, the scene looks great at first, and then the light changes. We often chase the light and our painting gets flat, just like the light does as it approaches mid-day.

Monet said that “the light changes every 7 minutes” so you must not be tempted by the mistress of the moment. Stay on task! Paint the moment when you were inspired! Keep the memory in your mind, and take a moment to jot down some notes and ask your self “WHY? Why am I inspired?” Make some quick footnotes on your canvas of the scene, the brightest lights, and shadows that made you stop and paint this inspiration. Get clear before you start, then stay focused on the end result. Turn your back to the scene and rely on your memory by watching your painting and not your model. The brain is an amazing computer. It can recall facts that a person is not even aware of. The practice of using this muscle in our heads requires some time, but it can be developed. After spending time coaching hundreds of artists on location at plein air events, it became apparent to me that although many artists had a good grasp of the skills to paint, many lack the understanding of why things work and how we see. Participants in the basic workshop will understand from start to finish the underlying structure of composing and executing a powerful painting. I invite you to attend the Basic Plein Air Workshop on August 7-8-9th, 2015.

 

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Plein air and alla prima artist Stefan Baumann, host of the PBS painting series “The Grand View, America’s National Park through the eyes of an artist” and author of “Observations Of Art and Nature,” travels in his vintage travel trailer painting America’s western landscape. Baumann paints outdoors with oils and canvas capturing stunning vistas, wildlife, western landscapes, National Parks and still life, thrilling art collectors throughout the world. He has many international collectors acquiring his paintings as investments. His painting style is called Romantic Realism with Luminism, and the extraordinary way he captures the effect of light is a truly American style used to paint the Western landscape. He can be seen plein air painting in Yellowstone, Yosemite and in the Grand Canyon. Baumann’s “how to paint” DVDs filmed on location in the National Parks are the very best on the market.

 

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Painting with Panels or Canvas?

The Secrets of Priming and Preparing Panels for Painting
Part One: Selecting the Panel

For an artist, nothing beats the feeling of working on a flawless painting surface that has been carefully prepared by skilled craftsmen educated in the Renaissance tradition with recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years. These recipes included various exotic ingredients such as resin extracted from trees farmed in the Amazon rainforests in Brazil, which was then hand pressed by Monks, and aged in cellars for 30 years as the main ingredient. Also, marble pumas mined from the same quarries in Italy that Michangelo used to sculpt his masterpiece “David,” was used along with linen textile made from the heartiest flax seed grown in eastern Europe that was then hand spun in Belgium using thread counts in the thousands. All of this was applied to wood, cut harvested from the western slopes of the France and Italian Alps, milled into panels, assembled in Venice, and exported around the world.

During the early days, preparation of the surface of the panel was a guarded secret, an art in itself, a skill passed down for generations. And unfortunately, often the secrets died with the artist. Many artists hired apprentices to prepare the grounds and mediums used to create these magic surfaces. They where sworn to keep these secrets from other rival artists and would not deliver the panels until they were properly dried in fear that a rival artist could smell the medium used in the preparing the surface. The finish of the surface was often the defining difference that contributed to creating a successful result as much as the painting itself.

Nowadays, we can step up to the counter at big box art store and buy 10- 8x 10 canvases for $10, and with a coupon, get another 20% off. Students ask me, “Why should I waste my money on quality supplies or spend hours of my time preparing a canvas when I am only learning how to paint and the paintings that I’m doing are just studies or practices and will probably get thrown away?”

I answer by saying “Inexpensive practice canvases will never come close to the experience that you will have with a quality canvas or panel. In fact, if you practice from the start on quality panels, it might change the way you practice painting forever. The quality of the surface will impact the way you apply your paint, the quality of your stroke, the way your paints blend and react to the surface, and the way light reflects on your brushstrokes.”

Yes, it is true that you can practice on inexpensive canvases, but what could you have achieved if you would have done it on a superior surface? Experiencing the way the paint absorbs or does not absorb, or how transparent or soft the paint appears on the surface of a fine canvas may help you think about painting in a different manner all together. Investing time and effort in the preparation and care of all of your materials will serve you well and will greatly assist you along in the painting process. Always be prepared and ready to paint with the best supplies possible.

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Whaler’s Cove: Values & Aerial Perspective

                                                                                “Whaler’s Cove” ~ 12×8 Oil Painting

April 13 2015
Point Lobos

After exploring the Monterey coast waiting for the sun to rise and the fog to lift, I discovered a hidden bay at the entrance of Point Lobos called Whaler’s Cove where I noticed the subtle effects of aerial perspective and receding values that would create a beautiful painting. This quiet bay was undulating with sea kelp which was quite a contrast to the dramatic sea pounding with waves on the coast that we saw earlier this morning. My colleague Kris Baxter and I climbed up the embankment and set up our easels for a morning of plein air painting.

Painting in the fog offers an interesting study in values. In this little painting of “Whaler’s Cove,” I found that the overcast sky provided a neutral background that simplified the details of the masses as the landscape fell away from us. The teal blue water breaking along the beach below complemented the grey palette of the painting, offering an illuminated focal point for the painting. The values lightened and got colder as the scene regressed into the fog creating the feeling of depth or aerial perspective. The foreground was darker and warmer which brought the cliffs closer to the viewer.

Personally, I like painting a marine painting at low tide when the rocks are exposed and there is less water so that I can  play with the rock shapes and colors. Also, the early morning light shows more of the rock structures allowing me to exaggerate edges and make a strong design with planes of interesting color.

In most cases, the sky will illuminate your painting and will be the lightest plane in your picture. I find that having the sky as the light source will create a very low contrast painting that can be boring to look at, and understanding this can often save a painting from disaster.  Instead, I called attention to the beautiful color in the water scarf and combined it with the light to create the effect of glared light on the scarf that becomes the lightest part of the composition.

Transitions are often overlooked in a painting and many artists will finish with a flat painting without transitions. I often tell my students that every inch of your painting should be in transition ~ either from dark to light value, or cool color temperature to warm. In this study, notice that the sky has transitions from dark on the left to a lighter value on the right, and likewise from top to bottom. The water also transitions from dark in the back to light in the front. This transition or gradation establishes depth.

When painting from nature, I establish the brightest spot first and then judge all the other values in the painting by it. The effect in “Whaler’s Cove” would have been lost if I made either the sky or the foreground too light. The dark silhouette of the foreground rocks are painted against the distant mass of the water giving the composition a sense of strength and balance, and the contrast in their value helps push the background slopes of the cliffs further back creating depth.

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Plein air and alla prima artist Stefan Baumann, host of the PBS painting series “The Grand View, America’s National Park through the eyes of an artist” and author of “Observations Of Art and Nature,” travels in his vintage travel trailer painting America’s western landscape. Baumann paints outdoors with oils and canvas capturing stunning vistas, wildlife, western landscapes, National Parks and still life, thrilling art collectors throughout the world. He has many international collectors acquiring his paintings as investments. His painting style is called Romantic Realism with Luminism, and the extraordinary way he captures the effect of light is a truly American style used to paint the Western landscape. He can be seen plein air painting in Yellowstone, Yosemite and in the Grand Canyon. Baumann’s “how to paint” DVDs filmed on location in the National Parks are the very best on the market.

The post Whaler’s Cove: Values & Aerial Perspective appeared first on Stefan Baumann – The Grand View: Paintings by Stefan Baumann.

Choosing Your Own Color Palette

On the Wings of an Osprey

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choosing Your Own Color Palette

In the next few posts I will be answering frequently asked questions from
students and professional artists about painting on location with oil paints and
discussing how to use colors, values and how to create a personal palette by using
4 colors plus white. I will explore how easy choosing your own color palette
can be as you develop your style of painting. This is aspect of painting included
as an essay in my book that I am writing titled, “Everything You Need to Know
about Plein Air Painting.” For more information, please go my Artist’s posts at
www.StefanBaumann.com

If you want to be Plein Air artist you must be practical about the supplies that
you bring with you on location. Everything that you bring must be evaluated as to
the weight, accessibility and convenience of your supplies. The heaviest items in
your box of supplies are your tubes of paint. It is important to use as few colors as
possible to produce the effects you want and minimize the weight. I have watched
artists on location squeeze out 32 colors of paint on their palettes before painting
their first brush strokes on canvas. Using numerous tubes of paint is a waste of time
and paint, and they weigh a ton! And what is worse is that students wonder why
they are having so much trouble matching colors and why their paintings look so
muddy. If you want to be a plein air artist, you must travel light so that you have the
freedom to go where ever you want to paint, and this means you can’t bring your
“studio” with you everywhere you go.

I have noticed that students frequently don’t understand how to use color or how
to choose a color palette that is their own. Many teachers just assume that their
students have already taken a color class. I invite you to consider painting with a
limited palette that includes 4 tubes of paint plus white. In theory, everything can
be painted with the three primary colors of Red, Blue and Yellow. This sounds crazy
but it is true. Look into your computer printer and you will find three colors of ink
that are used together to create the amazing photos that your printer can print.
What three primary colors should I use? This is part of the wonderful journey of
becoming an artist. The colors YOU choose will ultimately be part of the uniqueness
of your own artwork. I ask many participants in my workshops, “What colors do
you use in your color palette?” Many of them answer that they use various palettes
recommended by art gurus like Richard Schmid or David Levell. When I ask them
why they haven’t created their own palette, many of them look at me with a puzzled
expression. The truth is that many artists haven’t had training in color basics and
they use colors that they have acquired in the past, adding colors that they find in
art stores that are pretty or on sale. Many artists think it is easier to supplement
their palette with a variety of colors or buy premixed colors to save time. But if you
look back in history, there were fewer colors available to the Impressionists in the
1800’s and despite that limitation, they were very successful.
To learn color theory, it’s important to begin with three primary colors, Alizarin
Crimson, Thalo Blue and Cadmium Yellow Light. (Because Thalo Blue is so saturated
and messy, I recommend that you substitute Cobalt Blue.) Then, with time and
patience, you can mix these three colors together and create a beautiful black.
The initial goal of a Plein Air painter is to use only these three colors, black, and
Titanium white and complete a painting from start to finish. After doing this a

couple of times, you will begin making your own choices about what to add to your
palette. For example, you may need a bright red for a truck in your painting, After
you have exhausted all attempts at mixing Alizarin Crimson and Cadmium Yellow to
make this red and have come to the conclusion that this combination will not make
the red you want, then, and only then, you can search through the box of colors you
have been collecting and choose a red that will punch up the color. If you believe
that red trucks are going to be a part of what you paint frequently, then include
this color as part of your own palette. If not, toss it back into the box. You will start
seeing that only few colors will need to be added to create the subjects you select
and style that you enjoy painting. You may eventually substitute the first three
primary colors in your quest to find the perfect three colors for your paintings; so
experiment and find out what works for you. Save some backup colors to keep in the
trunk of your car but go on site with as little as you can carry in one trip.
Remember that White is not a color and is only used to create values of a color.
The quality of white paint does matter. I recommended that you use a good to best
quality of white like Old Holland Titanium White that contains both Titanium and
Zinc. The Zinc makes it cooler and balances the warmness of Titanium white making
it a true white. Stay away from Permalba White because it contains less pigment and
produces a muddy color quickly. If you want your white to have a soft appearance,
mix some linseed oil into the paint on the palette.
As for the cost of the paint you choose, except for the white, it does not make any
difference if you use a cheap name brand paint that you find at Michael’s or the
high-end paint like Vasari or Old Holland. They all produce the same effects when
mixed. So save your money to spend on something that really makes a difference,
like buying oil primed linen canvases to paint on.
Oh, yes. The fourth color that I use is an earth color. I could name the one that I
use, but why not chose one for your self. Any transparent brown will work. Now
play, experiment, and always be curious about the outcome. You’re on your way to
developing your own palette and style, and with a limited number of tubes of paint,
you are free to paint where ever and when ever you want.

The post Choosing Your Own Color Palette appeared first on Stefan Baumann – The Grand View: Paintings by Stefan Baumann.

Sketchbooks, Valuable Artist’s Tool

                                                                                “Curious Bear” by Stefan Baumann

 

At our camp near Coulter Bay, on the boundary of the Teton National Park, there was a curious bear whose name is Number 399. When I captured my first glimpse of Number 399, I grabbed my sketchbook to make a quick sketch on paper knowing that I could later transfer it to canvas. The bear stood for a few moments among several fallen tree trunks before lofting away to another campsite. While he stood there, a burst of wind made his fur ripple like waves on water, back-blowing his thick winter coat.

The National Park Service gives bears numbers to identify each bear, keep track of their activity, and to monitor if any bears are interacting with park tourists in an unpleasant manner. Every bear has its own personality and interacts differently with members of the human race. Number 399 is a popular bear at the campground. Rangers and park visitors liked him because of his natural curiosity about people, and as a result, many park tourists enjoy seeing this beautiful four year old, honey-colored grizzly. He likes the attention and poses for pictures, and he has never been cited for unruly bear behavior, although his natural curiosity makes a few campers a little uncomfortable as he wanders from campsite to campsite.

The following day after I sketched  Number 399, I learned that a hunter, who had just killed an elk, shot the curious bear three times and killed him. The hunter apparently was worried that he might have to share his kill with the bear. This was a poignant reminder of the value of sketching in the moment as the opportunity presents itself.

Artists have not always carried their paints and canvas with them on their travels. The practice of painting on location is a relatively new concept in the history of painting. Many artists prefer the traditional method of sketching their experiences in a sketchbook. Artists can draw models or objects of interest, jot down notes and observations about a subject’s shapes, colors and unique features, or work on ideas for upcoming paintings in their sketchbooks. In this painting, “Curious Bear,” I worked from a sketch that I drew of the bear that visited our campsite. Having only seconds to jot down ideas, I worked on an idea for a painting from my sketchbook and notes the following day after I learned that the bear had been shot and killed. This is an example of why it is valuable that artists always have a sketchbook and a pencil or pen ready to sketch and write notes and observations.

I recommend using a book that has about 50 sheets of plain paper with a spiral spine, and urge artists to carry it with them everywhere and make a point to draw at least three drawings a day. It is not necessary to invest in expensive journals with upgraded paper and leather binding displaying the artist’s name in gold leaf. Although these can be impressive, the fancy journals are intimidating and rarely, if ever, used. Don’t think of your sketchbook as a holy relic. It is just a book with pieces of paper. The real value is not the book itself; it is using its pages to practice your sketching and to journal what you are thinking and feeling daily about the world around you, with the possibility of capturing a precious moment that later can become your next great painting.

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Plein air and alla prima artist Stefan Baumann, host of the PBS painting series “The Grand View, America’s National Park through the eyes of an artist” and author of “Observations Of Art and Nature,” travels in his vintage travel trailer painting America’s western landscape. Baumann paints outdoors with oils and canvas capturing stunning vistas, wildlife, western landscapes, National Parks and still life, thrilling art collectors throughout the world. He has many international collectors acquiring his paintings as investments. His painting style is called Romantic Realism with Luminism, and the extraordinary way he captures the effect of light is a truly American style used to paint the Western landscape. He can be seen plein air painting in Yellowstone, Yosemite and in the Grand Canyon. Baumann’s “how to paint” DVDs filmed on location in the National Parks are the very best on the market.

 

 

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