Everything I Know About Painting



ShoWII1 here from left to right are Rose Frantzen, Scott Burdick, and ancy Guzik during their landscape painting debut in 1987. We spent a week painting together on the tranquil Green Bay peninsula of Wisconsm. Pity J didn't show them from the front. After days ofrain, Black flies, twisted ankles, sunburn, and my critiques, their expressions were quite interesting .. All have since developed superb outdoor painting skills.


When T was young T had some truly gifted teachers. The most extraordinary of them was a man named William H.

Mosby, and I had the good fortune of receiving a classical education in painting from him. "Bill" Mosby in turn received his primary training prior to World War II at the Belgian Royal Academy in Brussels, and later at the Superior Institute in Antwerp. His teachers were contemporaries of such luminaries as Monet, Degas, Zorn, Sargent, SorolJa, Mancini, Serov, and the rest of that group, along with the Naturalists, the early Abstractionists and other experimental painters. The pure skill which abounded in that generation was grounded on centuries of accumulated information-knowledge that by then had reached an astonishing level of sophistication. Mosby had a direct access to that world of art and he shared much of what he learned with me. In many respects, this is his book as much as mine.

"FALLEN PINE" Oil 12" x 16"

Painted at Stove Prairie in the Rocky Mountain foothills in 1991. This is typical of the intimate landscape sketch I find so refreshing to do. It is actually a portrait of a tree, done with a minimum of emphasis on surrounding elements.














The young lady at the easel is my daughter Gretchen, painting with me during a h-ip to Battle Lake Minnesota in 1985-what could be more beautiful?


This book is mostly about how J paint. I want people who look at my pictures to see what I sec when I look at my subjects. At least that is my fond hope. [ respectfully write with the assumption that your goal is similar-that you wish to be able to faithfully render what you see as a prerequisite to self-expression. Now it happens occasionally that a painting turns out well by accident or luck or sheer effort, but don't count on it. If you wish to make sure your painting will succeed, a minimum of three things must come from you-and only you. The first thing is knowing why you want to paint your subject, the second is an analytical grasp of what you see, and the third is the ski II to control the process of painti ng. These three ideas underlie everything that I share with you here.

I prefer to work from life, so there is much about "Direct painting" throughout this book. Direct painting (also

called alia prima or au premier coup) means painting from life, usually in one session. I believe it to be the ultimate in representational art because it is about real experience and demands the highest level of skill. Also, I write mostly from the standpoint of an oil painter. While 1 enjoy other mediums, I work mostly in oils and naturally express myself in those terms, but my message should make sense regardless of the materials that you use. I also feel that changing my references from one medium to another would be confusing. In any case, the same visual elements (shapes of color or value and edges) are involved. The only difference is in the rendering.

[ have tried to avoid rules of any kind. If some of my comments sound like rules, I apologize. Think of them as emphatic suggestions-painting should be a liberating experience, not an ordeal filled with dos and don'ts. Please remember that what I offer is merely what I have learned, and certainly not the last word on how to paint. J give you ideas and procedures that work, but that does not mean that my methods, or any of the methods of the great masters, for that matter, are the sale solutions, or the best.

You might come across what seem to be contradictions in my comments. For example, the need for control coupled with flexibility-or looseness of brushing joined with exactness of drawing. Such opposites, as you will discover, are complementary rather than contradictory. It is in the gray areas of pure choice, where there is no obvious "best" way that the true technical dilemma lies. So much in art is a matter of impulse and judgment-when having the savvy and smarts to break the rules imaginatively yet convincingly makes all the difference. We artists work in a realm where instinct and emotion and intelligence mingle bewilderingly, and what works in one case may not always work in another. The foundations however, of sound drawing, values, edges, and color, remain constant. You need a very good reason to deliberately mess with them.

There is some repetition here as well, which is unavoidable because so much in painting involves overlapping ideas.

Squinting down, for example, is essential for making judgments about edges, but it is also vital in determining values. Other ideas are reiterated on purpose because I consider them to be crucial-principles of accuracy and control, for example, and knowing where you want to go with your painting.


My formal training under William Mosby involved working from lifc exclusively, using at first the conceptual and technical methods of the Direct painters-the Flemish, Dutch, and Spanish masters, and then the late nineteenth century Italian, French, Slavic, Scandinavian, and American painters. The aim was not to imitate their styles, but to understand how they thought, what their problems were, and how they approached them. When I faced my own challenges, fidelity to my subjects at the moment of painting was always the goal. I was disciplined to analyze what 1 saw and render it faithfully.

The result was a familiarity with paint that seems like second nature to me now.

The richness of my experience with Bill is hard to overstate. As the years have gone by, 1 have come to realize the magnitude of what 1 received. J haven't the slightest idea of why I got it, but J did, and I have always felt I was a custodian of this knowledge rather than its owner. Painting has been my dearest friend for almost fifty years now. My skills and the freedom to use them are the most precious gifts 1 have. They opened up a world that few others ever have the opportunity

of experiencing. 1 hope that this book will help open the door to that world for you as well. Godspeed.

Richard Schmid

Stove Prairie, Colorado 1998



What could be more wonderful than the life of a painter? Beyond the usual necessities of life, we live out our days needing nothing more than a box of paints, some brushes, and something to paint on. We have no boss, employees, or financial backers. We don't require a performance hall, a publisher, a film studio, a foundry, or for that matter, even a gallery. All we really need is a continual passion for what we are doing, and a reasonable amount of evidence along the way that we are accomplishing someth ing worthwh i le, For most of us, that means at least painting skillfully enough to have satisfyi ng rcsu Its, perhaps even acb icving a level of virtuosity.

Whether you are a professional, a student, or you paint just for enjoyment, you ought to be serious about it, at least while you are painting. ALWAYS give it your best shot. Have a warm respect for your art and cherish your affection for it. Never demean your efforts because you think you're not in a class with Rembrandt. Paint the things you passionately respond to, and use any means necessary to make your work come out the way you intend. (That's what Rembrandt did.) Like other painters, I sometimes shudder when T see my early work, but I was trying my best at the time. Today I am certainly aware of the shortfalls in my current paintings. (Shortfalls is hogwash for outright bungling.) I remind myself, however, that ifI got it right every time, there would be little sense of accomplishment.


Don't bother about whether or not you have it. Just assume that you do, and then forget about it. Talent is a word we use after someone has become accomplished. There is no way to detect it before the fact, or when someone is still grappling with the learning process. It is impossible to predict when or if mastery will click into place. Besides, the thing we label as talent is not a single abi I ity. It is a complex mixture of motive, curiosity, receptivity, intelligence, sensitivity, good teaching, perseverance, timing, sheer luck, and countless other things. If any part of it is genetic, God-given, the result of astrological fiddle-faddle, fate, or destiny, that part is not the sale determining factor. All the other ingredients must be present in the right combination-and no one knows the exact recipe. Therefore Dear Reader, don't waste time worrying if you are talented-and don't blame any failures on the lack of it-that is really a cop-out.

Artistic skill-the ability to draw well and make paint behave-is not a natural endowment like big blue eyes or great legs. Nor is it a special knack you simply have or do not have, like a "green thumb;' a "natural sense of rhythm," or "surgeon's hands." (Those things are nonsense too.) Neither does it matter whether your parents, grandparents, or any of your ancestors were artists- except insofar as they may have motivated you, taught you, or served as role models. You can learn the skills required for painting in the same way that you can learn anything else you are strongly drawn to. I don't mean to understate the difficulties, however. The great painters devoted their lives to their art, often to the point of total obsession. Serious painting is not something tha.t can be learned casually. You must be willing to sacrifice many other things.

"CHRISS" Gouache 011 Gesso Panel 13" x 18"

Strictly speaking, this is a watercolor with opaque white added here and there in the light areas. I find that a work done solely with actual gouache pigments lacks the deep transparency of watercolor in the darks. The effect here is nearly identical to egg tempera, but without the eggs. I prefer to eat them.


Don't be afraid to learn. The idea of having an aversion to learning may sound silly, but in some quarters it is a definite no-no. A surprising number of otherwise intelligent people believe that learning about painting will inhibit them artistically-that spontaneity alone matters. The theory is that the path to meaningful art somehow arises naturally from deep within the human spirit, and any influence from the outside (established knowledge) will somehow contaminate the purity of the interior process. All that is necessary is to "let go," and a force from within will manage things.

I've always had trouble with that. Bach and Shakespeare and Michelangelo were all fine craftsmen who built upon what came before, and they weren't stupid. Even Mozart occasionally listened to his father. I believe that if you are going to master a skill and stimulate new achievements, it is not wise to ignore what is already known-above all, technical information. Painting has occupied some of the greatest minds in history, so why not yours too? You will never run out of fascinating things to study. Art is a living language with infinite possibilities awaiting. Learn everything you can about it, add your own insights, and use what you need. I believe that while you are in a learning mode (which should be most of the time), you. should suspend your "arty" sensitivities. Save those for when you are dreaming up your next masterpiece. Focus on the fascination of problem solving, or absorbing the lessons of your successes.


Profit from your failed paintings. Each one is sending you a message about what you may be doing wrong. Find out what it is, and don't do it again. I regard my disasters as invitations to learn more. They raise my hackles and dare me. My blunders tell me something technical (and therefore valuable) about what I do wrong. I see the mistakes I make for what they are-ordinary errors-and nothing more. In the same way, when you make mistakes they do not reflect upon you as a person, nor on your intelligence, and certainly not on your artistic attributes. Mistakes are part of being human. So what?


Underlying all your choices, particularly subject matter and the way you represent it, should be your own personal scruples, the standards and rules that you voluntarily set for yourself, and which you may change or abandon whenever you choose-without explanation to anyone. Your rules should mise out of your passions and your experience with what works for you. Don't take advice unless you understand it and it is useful to you. However, don't reject difficult ideas simply because you fail to grasp them immediately. Put them on hold until you do, then decide. Many things in painting become clear only after considerable experience, and that takes time.

Without mindless imitation, don't be shy about stealing good ideas. All artists have done that. It is why we have a vast body of cumulative knowledge from which to draw. Plagiarism is passing off sorneone's work as yours, but learning from their knowledge is an extension of their achievement. The caveat is that if you wish to study the works of another artist, make sure that he or she is competent. Watch out especially for the shortcomings of famous artists. Not everything they did was great art. They too had their bad days.


No matter how skillful you become, painting never gets easy. Of course, once you really get the fundamentals under your belt, you will no longer, as they say, crank out the turkeys. However, if you expect masterpieces to effortlessly emerge from then on, you will be disappointed. The reason why painting remains so demanding is because as you improve, your results will grow more rewarding, which will push you to increase your skill. That, in turn, will carry with it enriched insights and an urge to pursue greater challenges requiring still greater mastery, and so on. It is not the law of diminishing returns operating here, because the returns always increase. It is the carrot and stick routine--you can never quite catch up because the demands of painting will always remain greater than your expertise.


Self-doubt is utterly crippling to painters. Nothing will mess up our efforts more effectively than believing that we lack "what it takes." Well, no one knows what it takes, so how could anyone possibly know if they don't have it? They can't and you can't. Therefore, always give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Have confidence in the abilities that you already do have. After all, some of what is required to do a decent job of painting involves nothing more than the good sense you learned in grammar school, plus some other quite ordinary capabilities that are not strictly technical. In fact, the simple act of writing your name requires far more manual dexterity than anything needed in painting. The critical skills are mostly mental-disciplined perception, problem solving, knowledge of the visual elements, and an understanding of painting materials and tools.

Also, we painters do not need special physical attributes as dancers or athletes do. (Or the brute strength of sculptors.) We can be any size or shape or sex or race or age, and we don't have to endure the physical training that musicians and most performers require. We don't even have to be fully sane. Physically, we need only our brains and eyes and reasonably steady hands. Lest we think otherwise-that we need something more-let us remember th~t some handicapped painters do it with a brush between their teeth or toes. Even Renoir did not give up when he was crippled with arthritis, but chose to go on painting with a brush lashed to his fingers.


Stay alert and sharp when you work. Make sure your mind is fully engaged. Serious painting is not recreation or therapy or hell raising. It is intense creative work, even though it may have some or all of those other benefits. It is a visual language, and if you intend to say something articulate and worthwhile, you must be fully conscious. Stay healthy and eat well if you can-that romantic stuff about being a starving artist is absurd. It is much better to suffer with a full stomach-but skip the wine or martinis. You need clear thinking to paint. Be good to yourself-take frequent breaks from time to time. Give your mind a rest so you stay fresh throughout the painting. Your work, after all, reflects you and your state of mind more than it reflects anything else. How many pictures have you seen that give out a message of fatigue or boredom or confusion or frustration?

It was so cold the day r painted this that 1 c~uld barely grip my brushes. (I can never work well wearing gloves). Perhaps it was a good thing, because I was forced to work carefully, so as not to consume time with mistakes. For the same reason, I had to work simply as well (avoiding excessive detail). I have since taken to wearing gloves with cut off finger tips, or mittens with holes in their ends. Both work quite well, but 1 had none with me at the time. A good stiff brandy or Schnapps to relieve the cold, however, is not a very good idea. Alcohol feels quite nice for a while, but [ inevitably end up painting stupidly. Nancy was smart. She just watched me from the cozy warmth of our car.

"MINNESOTA HAY CREE" Oil 16" x 12"

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Don't go overboard with exotic or complex ways to paint. Stick to simple solutions unless there is a good reason to do otherwise. Let your viewers first see what you are trying to express-hit them with your message-then let them notice how you expressed it. (I think it is more decorous in that order.)

Don't wish for "secrets" of the Masters either. There are none worth fooling with. They had no special mediums or paints, nor special brushes that made their work great. (Our materials are unquestionably better than any they had.) Their only secret was what they knew-plus the good sense to slam into their problem head on. They dealt with painting in the most direct way they could think of. That's one reason why they are Masters.

Beware of the lure of ostentatious techniques too. Flashy tricks will not make your point stronger. It is what you are trying to convey with paint that counts, and an easily understood rendering is always the strongest. Remember that painting is not a performing art, nor a sport, nor a contest to see who can get the most attention. Painting, I repeat, is a language. If the content of your work imparts something thoughtful, it will eventually be noticed. Don't be crushed if it doesn't happen right away. If you want to be famous, get into politics, or crime, or show business, or sports. If you paint just to get rich, shame on you. If you paint because you must do it or die, you are my kind of painter, read on!


Painting by its very nature is a discretionary act, and its latitude for expression is boundless. Even within the confines of representational painting, there is no limit to the ways a subject can be rendered and still look unmistakably authentic. That is possible because of the dichotomy of human experience-the fact that all of us agree on much of what reality looks like (if we didn't we couldn't communicate), but we also experience reality in purely personal terms (which is why witnesses differ about the same event). Art lets us mingle these simultaneous yet seemingly incompatible aspects of experience in almost magical ways. When we are bursting with some wordless experience, Art is our voic,e, the song of the heart.

As painters, however, we must always remember that our precious poetic visions and spiritual insights will remain forever locked within us until we can boil them down to a complex arrangement of a few hundred or possibly even thousands of brushstrokes. Each of those strokes has four main characteristics-color, value, edges and drawing. Those are the only things that get onto our canvases-Art happens in the mind of the person seeing them.


When is a painting finished? That is indeed the question! Some paintings are finished after only a few brushstrokes, others seem to take forever. The strength and clarity of the picture you envision at the start will tell you when you are done. You are finished when you have said what you wish to say, when nothing added can make it better. The last question you ' must ask before signing a work should be this-does it look like what you want it to look like? If it doesn't, you must ask yourself if you know what you want it to look like-before you go back to find out what went wrong.


When you are trying to learn, treat each painting session as a time to solve a specific problem. Set a limited goal-something you can do, as you intend to do it, in the time available, and under the circumstances in which you must work. This normally involves a compromise between everything you would like to do, and what is realistically possible. Remember that you must set the boundaries of what to paint (unless you are working under a teacher).

If something is visible, stays reasonably still, and is not in itself a blindingly bright source of light, it can be painted! lfthe kids are coming home in ten minutes and the dog just threw up on the bedroom rug, don't even think about starting anything serious. More than just your urge to paint is required. The conditions must be right, your subject must be stable, the light must be adequate, and you must be free to work.

Once you have decided what it is about your subject that YOLl wish to paint, ignore the rest of what you sec. Painting is not a challenge to render everything in sight. What matters both technically and artistically is the quality of what you do, not how much you can cram onto a canvas. A painting finished from edge to edge but poorly done is a waste of paint. An incomplete sketch superbly executed is power.

Once you start, think about what you are doing! Work with deliberate intent, as if you were executing a perfect premeditated crime. Stay in control. Work so that you know what needs to be done and where you are going with your painting (and consequently, when to stop). There is no contradiction between being in control and giving free rein to your energy (ask any jockey). It is a matter of doing things in the right order. First you must have the skills to control your actions, then you can cut loose and have fun. Doi ng it in reverse doesn't work. If you relax your grip without understanding what you are doing, you are in for trouble. Throw paint on with a shovel if that makes you happy (not recommended), but make sure it lands in the right spot.


However you choose to paint, get it accurate in every necessary respect. That does not mean "tight" or detailed. You can work in a splendidly loose and simple way and still be exact. Looseness is not a frivolous departure from control, quite the opposite. It arises from the freedom which comes with superb control. Any athlete or accomplished performer will confirm that. That's how pros and virtuosi are able to make their wonders seem so effortless. Therefore, looseness should describe how a painting looks, not how it is done.

Don't assume anything when you paint. Measure for every critical stroke you place on the canvas, then measure it again against something already on your canvas that you are sure is correct. Hang a big sign in a conspicuous place in your studio with the following words:

Never knowingly leave anything wrong on your canvas.


This painting offered interesting problems involving a variety of textures such as velvet, satin, hair, skin, etc. In 1971, when this was done,

I was painting generally more thickly than I do now, relying on the blending of colors and dry brushing to achieve my edges (and appropriate edges are the key to creating the illusion of texture.) Since then,

T have become more aware of the role of contrasting opacity with transparency to enhance textural effects. Integrating my paint thickness with suitable edges gives me astonishingly realistic results.


Oil Detail of 30" x 36" original


What do I mean by wrong? Wrong is anything on my canvas that doesn't look like what J intend it to look like. I don't mean to suggest that wrong means any deviation from a strictly literal rendering of my subject. On the contrary, wrong as I am using it here means deviation from my perception of a subject or what J wish to have in my picture. Whenever you put something on your painting that bothers you or doesn't look true, do not leave it there and go on to something else thinking it doesn't matter. It does matter. It is the same as deliberately leaving ungrammatical words in writing. Why do it?

I try not to do it, and it bothers me when I let it happen. (It doesn't happen by itself.) All my life I have been trying to create images that you and everyone will recognize as "real," but at the same time doing so in such a way that you will see what I alone experience. "Wrong" then, for me, is whenever I put something on my canvas that isn't the way I see things (because I don't want you to get the wrong idea). Each finishing stroke that I do is like a note in music or a word in a sentence. TfI am at a concert, for example, and the soloist keeps hitting wrong notes, or the author I'm reading can't spell or punctuate, those blunders wreck everything. It is exactly the same with this kind of painting. My brushstrokes are my words and notes. Each one is there for a reason, and for me it must be what I intend. If it is wrong, it will cause all sorts of mischief.

Although they are sometimes difficult to pinpoint, colors that don't belong or things badly drawn will exert a disturbing influence until they are corrected. Why? Because all elements in my picture are interrelated. Each brushstroke and color shape is dependent on every other one for their correctness. The structure that I create is as fragile and vulnerable as a house of cards until I am finished. By deliberately (or otherwise) allowing something significantly wrong to remain, I frustrate my subsequent attempts to make accurate judgments. 1 also undermine my ability to assess what sound work I have already done. Ignored mistakes make my good work look bad, and I don't want that. Do you?


We know that paintings can't happen magically all at once. They must be done stroke by stroke, and much of what is done in the initial stages is not intended to be seen in the finished work. Much of what goes on at the start is preparatory work and will not make sense or look "right" until the final brushwork is laid over it. This is usually referred to as "underpainting," and it is necessary to some degree in most painting. My experience permits me to allow for this intentional inexactness without being thrown off.

For my needs in painting from life, the preliminary lines and colors that go all at the start normally serve as color and compositional indications-the overall design of the pictorial elements. They may simply outline the position of the main subject or indicate the color harmony that I see. The majority of my paintings (and most other artists) involve some groundwork of this sort (usually very sketchy) to prepare the way. Often my first marks serve merely to visualize different ideas without making an immediate commitment. However, once I have established where the major elements of my subject will be placed within the picture area, there is then no reason to continue in a sketchy way. I switch my thinking then toward accurate work.


Slow down for the hard parts. Slow down for the easy parts too. Their easiness can be deceptive. Try to develop an enjoyable steady pace as you work. Painting is not a race. Savor what you are doing. (You wouldn't gobble down a gourmet dinner.) Work only as fast as accuracy will allow. Speed will come with experience. Besides, it is necessary only when the subject is changing fast, and even then a slow cool assessment of what is occurring, and careful paint application, are better than trying to frantically capture movement as it is happening.

Active movement within a subject most often occurs in landscape painting-partly cloudy days with sunlight constantly appearing and disappearing is particularly difficult to manage. Usually I choose not to paint on such days, but if I have started a painting in a certain light condition and things start changing, I simply wait out the periods when the light is not as it was when I began. However, if I have started in bright sunlight, for example, and it clouds over for the rest of the day, I start over. If I lose time because of corrections or other problems, 1 resist the temptation to paint faster. If I hurry to catch up, J usually make more mistakes, lose even more time, and 1 panic. When that happens, my work is doomed.


Once you are into the serious stuff-past the opening shots-and you know where you want to put everything, don't make random strokes anymore. They amount to aimless daubing in the vain hope of somehow accidentally making the right one. It is pure speculation, and the law of averages is overwhelmingly against you. Also, avoid getting involved in what is called "licking"-brushing in the same area over and over while you decide what to do next.' It is the equivalent of daydreaming, a substitute for thinking.

Many painters do this unconsciously. If you have painted in a group, you have probably noticed the person with a dazed expression locked into working on one small area of a painting, making the same brushmark over and over. If you are ever that person (and we all have been), break the spell. Step back and take a fresh look at where you are. Have a clear idea of why you are putting your brush to the canvas. Know exactly what line or color or edge you need -before you jump back in.

As a special favor to me, resolve that you will not just casually glance at your subject and put down something to see if it looks OK. Your painting should have a minimum of trial and error. VerifY what you are seeing on the subject for its shape, value, length, thickness, color, edges, and so on-then place your brush stroke and step back to check it again against the subject.' Make a critical evaluation, and either leave it alone or modify it as necessary, then go on. Stepping back frequently and using a mirror are excellent ways to check for correctness.

"Licking" also refers to the excessive blending and smoothing of the paint surface. It was a favorite trick of the Salon painters of the last . century. They even invented special brushes and mediums to do the job, and they tried to outdo one another in the glassy smoothness ofthcir canvas surfaces, Most of it was boring stuff that reflected a preoccupation with how cleverly things were painted rather that wha! was being painted-and it cracked a lot.

Remember the carpenter's rule: Measure everything twice.


"APACHE TRAIL" (Arizona) Oil 18" x 24"

In spite of its size, Apache Trail (painted in the Tonto National Forest in 1988) was done rather quickly in order to capture a fleeting effect of light The entire bottom half of the painting is a combination of turpentine washes and dry brushing. Dry brush strokes can also be seen in the clouds to the right and left of center, though they were applied into impasto white pigment.


Suppose I am working from life, I'm all fired up with a great start, I can see what I want in my mind, I know where

I'm going-and Dear God, my painting starts to come apart. If I can't see why immediately, I have a number of choices:

1. I can give up. (Good for a painting that was a bad idea to begin with.)

2. I can put it away in the closet and hope that the paint fairy makes it look better in a week. (You never can tell.)

3. I can guess at the problem and try some optimistic dabbing at random. (Dumb.)

4. I can try faking it. (Which makes it worse.)

5. I can try altering the subject to fit my painting. This is possible under some circumstances with a setup such as a still life or a model's position, but the options are few and it smacks of cheating.

6. I can get out an art book to see how one of the masters handled a similar problem-not a bad idea but no guarantee of an answer. Their subjects and lighting never seem to be precisely the same as mine, and in any case

their paintings do not tell me about their struggle. I only see the distilled result of their success. .

7. This is the one that works !-a process of elimination.

By narrowing my search for causes I can always find the problem. Experience tells me that technical difficulties occur in only three areas-in the subject, the circumstances, or in me. My painting is never to blame. (As suggested in the familiar lament: "My painting just isn't working!") Why? Because my painting does not paint itself. I paint it! If I can't find the cause of a problem in my subject with things like movement, change of light, drooping flowers, the model falling asleep, or whatever, and I can't find fault with my working environment-wind, rain, insects, bad materials, crowds, noise, the cat, or any other disturbances-then I have to look at myself or the way I am painting.

If I am reasonably warm and dry, awake, not hungry, and I don't have to go to the bathroom, then the problem MUST therefore be in what I am DOING!-so now I know what to look for!

The next question is what exactly am I doing wrong? For the answer to that, the process of elimination must continue. I already know that there are only TWO possible errors in working from life. (Remember that.) "Io put it neatly they are:

1. Painting something that is not there in a subject.

2. Not painting something essential that is there.

I also know that those two errors can only occur within one or more of the four visible elements: Color, Values, Drawing, or Edges (or some combination of those).


Now I'm getting somewhere! I have brought things down to useful questions such as-in which of these four elements am I not seeing correctly? Am I departing from what I am seeing by putting in colors or values that aren't there? Am I ignoring something essential? Perhaps I am not paying attention to the edges or drawing that are necessary for my painting to match my subject. With questions like these I can scrutinize my painting carefully in each of the four areas, and eliminate from consideration the ones I got right. What remains will be the problem. (Quite so, Holmesl) Thus-if my color and values check out OK, and the drawing is good, then chances are I have an edge problem, and I will only have to change some of them to be back in business.

It isn't always that easy. A painting is an interrelated system, and errors often happen in combination. A color mistake will frequently involve an error in value as well. Likewise, poor drawing invariably contains flawed edges, so you must be alert for more than one thing happening. Despite these minor complications, this is still the best way 1 know of to get out of trouble. The process of elimination is rational and methodical. It will get you into a problem-solving frame of mind and away from the frustration of an aimless struggle.


The last thing 1 would do if a painting is not turning out is to blame my talent, or fate, or use futile abstractions to define the weakness or flaws. Such responses are useless. I hear painters say that their painting doesn't have the feeling they want, or it doesn't sing, or doesn't have passion, or inner fire, or excitement. They may complain that it lacks authority, or sensitivity, or the color is dead, or the whole thing just isn't working. Frequently painters tum upon themselves with "I'll never get the hang of color," or "I always mess up the drawing," or "I just can't do people," (or trees or water, etc.), and

so on.

For me, sentiments like these merely describe my feelings rather than anything tangible or technically useful about why I think I might have botched things. Expressions such as those above cannot help solving a problem beyond acknowledging that I might have one, and that I am unhappy. (The poor-dear-me syndrome.) I can complain until doomsday, but complaining will not help. Qualities such as excitement, inner fire, and soul do not come in paint tubes, nor do they emerge from my brush. They only materialize when I use my skill to convert my fervor into bits of color, the way a pianist conveys emotion through appropriate pressures on piano keys. (And it takes the same amount of practice.)

If I am going to zap my problem, I must translate my frustrations into clear-cut technical terms. For example, if I think my color is not "vibrant" or "authentic," I have to ask myself what those adjectives denote. Invariably I get around to realizing that what I really mean is that my color isn't "clean." That turns out to mean that I am allowing complementary colors to intermix too much, creating mud,' and I'm also probably holding back with the true values. As for lack of "authenticity," that just means I was too lazy to match the colors to the subject. Now I have something I can get my teeth into!

"Muddy" color, on further analysis, always turns out to be a color that is an inappropriate temperature--a too-cool color within a wann shadow, for example.

"MY FRIEND JOHN" Oil 16" x 20"

VVVU' .JL/.L/1_J /11VLJ _l. J\.J-.,t_. .fJ.,U".l"-',u 1. t

When I am able to reduce a problem to a technical description, the solution pops right up. Recognizing that I need more orange or yellow (or whatever) in a mixture will yield a result. Just saying that a color is "wishy-washy" will not. On the other hand if nothing works, I may just be having a bad day.

To wrap this up, here is a little check list (by no means complete) of common mistakes and difficulties:

Careless drawing (not measuring).

Not squinting for values and edges.

Too many sharp edges.

Too many highlights.

Trying to paint things instead of color shapes.

Painting shadows too light.

Painting more values than are necessary.

Muddy (wrong temperature) color.

Incorrect temperature changes.

"Pushing" bright colors arbitrarily.

Inventing impossible color.

Inappropriate paint thickness.

Miserly paint (too little).

Excessively-thinned paint.

Unsuitable brushes.

Cheap canvas, very absorbent canvas.

Poorly stretched canvas.

Painting too fast.

Painting over life-size without a good reason.

Painting very small without proper brushes.

Allowing too little time.

Aimless brushstrokes.

Working too close, not stepping back to view your work.

Faking it.

Overworking what should be left alone.

Showing off

Working from inadequate photos.

Working from photos taken by others.

Poor working light.

Excessive glare on the canvas.

"LYNDEN BARNS" (Washington State) Oil 12" x 16"


Changing conditions in the subject or movement of a model.

Wobbly easel.

Deficient palette-poor selection of pigments.

Not cleaning palette and brushes while working.

Trying to paint what is not possible to paint

Confusion-trying to do everything at once.

Timidity and lack of confidence-fear of making a mistake.

Trying to paint too much, especially detail.

Painting under excessive pressure or distraction.

Trying to paint what you don't want to paint.

Nancy and I have a little rule: when we travel, we must pose for one another for a half-hour every day, no matter what. I did this little sketch of her (in twenty minutes) as she was waking up one bright morning in our bed and breakfast-the same English estate where she posed while having breakfast. (See page 155.)


Aside from the above, painting is as they say-duck soup!

"SAPPHIRE" Oil 16" x 21"




Looking back in time, I find it hard to imagine the average citizen of Pre-Renaissance Europe relating to very much in paintings the way we respond to our art today. 1 For one thing, the notion of art as a vehicle of self-expression had not yet appeared. Subject matter was largely confined to Biblical episodes, allegory, mythology, and glitzy tableaus of powerful people. Moreover, the ways such things were depicted were far removed from an ordinary person's experience.

If you trace the development of imagery used in Western European Art (our dominant roots), you will notice that elements in pictures did not begin to look "natural'v=with authentic looking colors acting in light and shadow the way you and I see everyday things-until the early seventeenth century. That was not very long ago. Prior to 1600, we seldom find a painter even attempting a naturalistic depiction of what human beings actually saw. Painting techniques were highly stylized, with Tights and shadows serving only to model the forms. Colors were used as flat tints, and nothing looked like what we today would call "real."

While there had to be some awareness among early painters about the role of light in the visual field, there was little serious headway in dealing with it until an astute Italian named Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio and his colleagues started fooling around with something caned Chiaroscuro (high contrast light and shadow). Mike's work in trying to paint dramatic light effects provoked a major revolution in visual perception.

Because his use of light as a distinct pictorial element was a new concept, it was slow to catch on. It was quite a lot to swallow for painters who had thought only in terms of physical form. Even when the use of light and shadow in painting did catch on later, it took many generations before things like shadows were understood well enough to be painted with a look of naturalness. The concept of light temperature was also slow in coming.

The difficulty with light as a determining factor was that it went against the traditional common sense notion that things simply "look like what they are," and that they sit out there in empty space. Artists were certainly aware of light, but (judging from their paintings) light served only as a source of illumination and did not affect the appearance of an object. A horse still looked like a horse no matter what the direction or color or brightness of the light on it. Well, it was hard to argue with that (and probably risky).

The traditionalists of the day must have been appalled at the very thought of Chiaroscuro. After all, the new idea threatened the preeminence, not to mention the validity, of what was unquestionably great art (theirs). The standard way of doing things had always worked well for everyone, and also paid the bills. Caravaggio's introduction of light rather than form as the primary ingredient in the visual field must have shaken the art world. Why? One reason was that light fluctuates, and that brought painting into an area of unpredictability-a very disagreeable notion to Renaissance minds accustomed to tidy order.

Turning that around, a person from that period viewing one of our contemporary painting exhibitions might think we had lost our senses.

The standard thinking of the painters then (as now sometimes) was this-when you viewed your subject as a distinct thing rather than as a pattern of visual shapes, you had to paint what you knew about it-what else was there to go by? Naturally then, the more you knew about what you were painting, the better it turned out. However, painting things meant that a lot had to be memorized because there are a lot of things in the world, far too many to learn them all, and so they specialized. To this day the masters of those times can be recognized as much by the narrow range of their subj ects as by their superb styles.


They did their best, and their best was breathtaking. Something however, possibly the dreariness of all that memorizing must have gotten to some of them, particularly the Dutch, Spanish, and a few others, because they gradually eased into simply painting what they saw. They were the first to paint the appearance of things rather than merely what they knew about them. In the process they presented us with the stunning gift of their new insights. Instead of trying to depict subjects only according to their external forms, those artists began to concentrate on capturing the effects of light that made them visible. It was an effort which, fortunately for us, turned out to be one of the most liberating discoveries in the history of art.

I must mention here that one other significant breakthrough preceded Direct painting. I refer to the development of linear perspective, which also occurred in Renaissance Italy. Three other developments came after Direct painting. The first was the emergence of Romanticism in the 18th century-the idea that expressions of ordinary personal experiences of life were legitimate subject matters for art. The second was a revolution in color theory touched off by knowledge of the spectrum. Practical photography was the third, and we all know what that did, and is still doing.

A fourth item, the invention of the lowly paint tube, should also be mentioned. We take it for granted today, but that one single little object allowed painters to conveniently carry their colors anywhere. It liberated artists" from their studios and made landscape painting, as we know it, possible. It should rightfully take its place in history along with the safety pin and zipper!

So we see that in the span of only 400 years, we acquired the means to depict things in three-dimensional space; to paint quickly and accurately almost anywhere on earth; to use anything imaginable for subjects; to understand color; and to store visual information instantly. (And all without a computerl) I do not include the emergence of abstraction as a milestone because I do not believe it fits in with the continuity of painting development that I am describing here.


Painters such as Frans Hals and Diego Velasquez were among the first to pick up on the Direct painting idea, followed by Vandyke, Rembrandt, Vermeer and eventually many others. While most of them continued to employ traditional technical methods of creating paintings, such as elaborate preparatory work, multiple painting sessions, and glazing, their way of seeing a subject was anything but traditional.


"CARNATIONS" Oil 18" x 24" I try not to paint flowers in flower vases if I can possibly help it (and I can)-I prefer the rather more interesting compositional opportunities of showing them in less formal ways. To me, they are like enchanting but naughty children, each crying for attention-or each perhaps, a bittersweet thought-but flowers are never simply pretty adornments.

20.1 :iI.LA F!UJfA

A Inl!r1~u~inll began i,nl lh~ur world or'painlil1g from ~e~ing "lh~ng:S"lo .sL'cin,g the tight on rhings, h. \ ... 'a~ the lnrth or Direct pilinl~ng und led m Its famous offspring, ]mp:~ .. ~ionusDn,' It is. h.1U'~ fur US to umagine IhJ\" those painters n'llus~ hJ.H! srrngglcd (Q understand \'l.'ha~ they" ere seeing, because tmlay the ideas they explored seem like self-evident facts IJihout perception. Thanks to them lIW know beyond any doubt that no matterltowhardwe ny. we cannot everphysically "see" anythtng except light The \, orld is, \ isible (0 Ij_;;;; only because of the light that radiates from i~. or reflects 'from, it lt is obvious then IhM tight is the only tbmg 'l.VC can paint, Think of i.l'! YUU! only have tu learnto palm that one thutg+no more nl~lnor.u.zi.ng of things. WI1~tl a s["Ikndud gi n ~ilc} gJ\C us!' II.·~ almost too ~ilnpic to be InJ'!.:, but it 1.\ trul! dear friends, and ul can extend the runge of your subject matter far beyond your dreams, sW'l'!l<ll:>:-iing \Ii hnt you are mt'rrdj ~~~miliar \~ itlll or goon.! at, It embraces everything visible, and that InCMS the whole wmld!

When we do a. nireC'~ painting from life. we usethe exact saapes of color that light cremes. 0['1 a subject to create a fauhful illusion 0f what we physicalty sec, The procedure fuqtmeS that our visual world be \' iewcd asa kind of vertical jigsau I'lLl!al~ il Ilat, h.w-diniJ:l'nsUt;11:1UI arrangement 'Or coherent shapes, each wnh a ~pcci ['jc color, value, and a SCI or edges very much like what W~ experienceby ~uUing [00 close to a big movie screen.' A Direct puinting is almost <1I~ways. done from lifewith wet paint-into-wet and usually in one r~inli1J'ig ",e~"j.iOIll-a sin!;~e day or less, The object is, to capture a subject as it is before an)' noticeable changes occurin it, ro it. or in the anist-· like a vel) 5.:10W motion s:nflp'l'-hm done b)' hand, (Forgive the analogy)

There is no set \'\'ay 10 pairu d~rl'L.:tly. because it is away of seeing rather than a technique. lr ]5 (0 ,'iHJm.C cxtcer a

!.JIIl i l.lllIIC' ~ i tum i on \"0 i th c\ c I'Y nc\, subj eel. .11:'1 a sen SJ.:. 0 i reet pairut in g is the most i nreractix l' form 0 f r~pn'l'~cm~wi on a i Pil~l1lling, because the subject and its ch a racrerisrics. the painting 'environment and you, act luge~her, You .. ire not 5ilmplr ~l casual observer using a 'PJ1'CCXiSlenT method IO record s:olil1e~hilil~. Each painter of this genre hils, hi s or her O'l,lm favorite routine. Cecilia Beaux, Wayman Adams, and Huzabedll Sparhawk Jones, for examele.all had their own ways. and produced individaahstic results, but each was a Direct painter, After my ~nihal trainsng in painting. 1 arrived at m), O'i.\' n way or doing 1l1J~l'Ig~~y eonnnually working from ~ifil. Iln~ld~ l:'\l!ry bh~ncl~1: you can imagine, including some lwl} l.mrmg,I.!Uablc stepidities. bur r \'1';1$ cornpletclj hooked em (his glorloIJ'l quest, and no amount of frustrmion or ernbarressmern could have stopped me.

:l: Thl.:' "i-rss" duu f(lIl(M.ed-l?l'I~tilt1lpn;~,inl1·i~m. fl(prc<;'iion~sn'l, Cuh~S1l1, A~hirllCli()l"I, D<ld.HMIl. SW'1'eDI;~m. ~lll] :11'1. OpOIrl, etc, were

cornplelel,' urnTcl1!lI{:d to. the developments in an LIIp to and including earty lrnpressionism. Owing {he later d-ecade<.; of the 19~h century. various artisi« took <I nm~t~ Jq;r,!.;l,; ILII'I''! .I,Wo.I:-· n\ll'l'l the then unguing dln::c~~url of Hl"imiflg. 111,.;' 'l"CM!li ~t Ihcir .;!rort~ I' what we cull MOtJcm An. u Ik"'I\! l)pL: ol human activity (,TII~ircly diff€T...:nl in IlIlUt character and purpose rrom afiythL~ pl'!..'1,;!.::dlTig It il I"iliDlk~cl {111~y by (he fact that til I~U:: beginllin!!!. and m vanous tunes afterward, ··\100t.'Trn·· a:rti:l>IS e"lflployedlhe same' materials as "Classical" pami.e:r.. .. The Iti~tol") and lh()llgh~ which underjies Moo~m an b t'Olilpli.~lll~t~ lind J.t:cP~} ill:~ol\l~J H~ the poli.hll:iJJL, P.'ll1ih)M)ph~cal. and r~ydHll.ogl~a] \Ip1h:avHI or the pa:.t l Of] )c;lr~ or ~U. ('oll1rllll"~ W conh::mpomr~ art docirine, InO\A '€\oeT. nmciern 1l0Jlrepre"'ent:JI1 ional art i to< nnr un I:Hl luti nmLI)' !:Ki!::ns i ~n .[1 f e 1 ussical rain! in ~ llny more than rn 1II{i!(;)'1ll com l'!,Iter mus lc ... an OLltgro .... 1i11 ohr<lcltition:d violil'ii technique.

l \\'~ ~i:~ lni~ W::i} wl~<::n, \ .. \~ H'il~l. hct,1l1!! Itl 1!l:~'C' eur ~:yJ;l~ as infunt-, lhr: world I~ t",,'O-dlJlli.:I'~lllI1!:J~ to us unul uur ~}~~ OCC'Oll1C coordinated, We-

then somehow cemhine L'lur newly-acquired bi~w>tHiar Vi'tlNl .mJ ~fi~c (lr touch w creruc a thtee-djmcnvional world

When I paint, I do not think of myself as having a specific technique; I simply regard the things that I do as necessary to my intentions. Happily, in this case, as I was blithely on my way toward a rather academic profile, Nancy intervened (as she often does). She made me stop at this point, when my painting was strongest, leaving the drips and bold strokes. She said that

I could kiss our relationship good-bye if I made even one more brush stroke. Her move was a truly classic example of the idea that it often takes two to do a good painting-one to paint it, and another to rap the painter smartly with a hammer before he or she can ruin it.

"PRINCESS" Oil 21" x 20"

\~ hile Ana Prima palming ~aek::" a rigidly stnicrured ~Wp-by-Sh;:p procedure, an Direct l'lainl~ng$ invelve the s.ame 1.:"~!'i.en[i:Il'!lo. There is !lCW no' quC's~ion ~Irl my mind th .. t the fir$~ it1dilopt:'nsab!~ filjqU ire ment when 1 pain'l fromlife is having; il clear mental image of the ]11clllJrre ] wish to end up with. \:\'ill'lout that there can be no art in my effort U doesn't have to be detailed, burl must know what I am shooting for. Moreover, my mental image must be a painfed image. not simply an urge (0 paint scmerhmg because I like it. or a picture in m) mind of things with IUU'1es (like trees. faces, Dlo' .... ers. ch~d::CIDS. ctc.j, ! must .D"e~LS[ the natural ~nc'lilllati.on [0 view my subject as H'li1g]b1c stuff, .~ ['1I'1IL.1~t be able to see e\ crything as. merely shapes of color with distinctive cdg~':, where they join. Thl~ is the k.C} to Dlrcet pJ.i~Hung s~cin,!.: color and 1.igh[ instead of actual things,

Also. because thereis usually a limited time period to paint, J UlllILS( have a disciplined, ~lm(IJS:[ businesslike-pace of werking, l 1.]111,]5t get the impertanr things onthe canvas wimhQUl delay (ye1rllNin haste)" J needmy materials ready and cenvernently laid (:JIiJU so that [ may proceed wnhcurhncrruotiou. Once ] beg~ •. l must cencentraje, measure things carefully, and stuy itl coutro]. ~. mus~ work with the same' l'Ol~n~Lt1ki~~g intent ,l~ U (~Il ~Ialkillg its prey,


I like TO begin with aturpentinewash to elirninate rhe prilst~ne'l,vhire of the canvas (see Slartil1ll1g, Chap, 3). [hen induca.'~e with a few h:ne:!-. [he placm'iJllen~ ef thc subject within the 'picture area. 1]1 mO:5~ cases, I start [m the spot where I want Imy focal pornl and immediceely put JOWtl one CfIIlQr shape r(;onl\:!'ct~y (ex a ~ily tJ.1C wa, I. "'1011.11 i( no lmph<1:lilird ::.kclchjngJ.

1 make S:IIJ~"C .1 get the next bit of color jus! as accurate, and then '!hl! ~hin.i t11.'LU so forth,

I try to suppress the urge' to speed up, and instead do mywork at a very careful and deliberate pa~e. r concentrate en orne spot at a time, comparing my current bmshsnoke to theprior one for accuracy. all the while resisting the temptation to streak around [he cam-as with a lot of speculative color,

My bullish inrcnnon remains to (ll1 (0) move [rom one corrcctly-painecd patch to the next, nl~VC'J leavin~ the one 1 arn working on until. it is "rig~1r' I';:l;,]ti\ .. c to wh~~ .u!-" ~IfC~ld) there. ~;or one reason or another, it occasionally due~n'l \voifllt out '~xadly that \Hly .. bu~ l),t leust that~ "rhf~t I shoot I~)r, [lIHJ the resultsin mO<;;l cases fall rcawnJbly within I11JY hopes,

Errcrshappen, ofcourse, In Illy case. mainly from 'WOrking too f~~G:t-tJry]ng 10 get too much Oil my C2IJ[l'a.s all at once. Th3it causes car-elessness ![I measuring for the drnw]n;g-]lilakil1.g the little shapes of color the U'I'rmg shape. VsuaUy J nlt!ss. up when I'rn irying to show on-: so ] have IJ'IO good e_\\cm .... e {only theconsequences of cockinessl , In my normal rather demure ~~al~. hO\li'C\ er, I. t:'IHCI: inlo J finish-us-l-go-ulong process .~n~:I" the fir..t rC\V strukes. That mcansl C<1iJ1i stop <It atr~y poi lilt and still have ~umclhing worthwhile. ~ likethat QJlp~i.OI1l OCCHU::H: stoppill,g in the early stage of'a painting i~ frequently a good thing, Many s(!I1.:mgIY-iJlfuinled but less finished works are more inn:resting [hanks te the impliedpawcr lrlll tile sureness aad accuracy of \,!iha~ is [here, IDn painting, as in many other things in hfc:. less is usually bener than more,

.j llUi(:I.!, alkr [~ i'l.lnL~ulari.~ ~rl!f1l~'tlll<,;l'll~lmlCli'l~': of Ihl: llrJlmh rlmlill QlIj~\~I. oJ fill1olulh. [>!t.ly gl~chJ.lly r!:lHolrkL'Lfl Itl 1'11~: ··Th!ll·~ Iln", nFdhl1;~~

should b(;'F'laycd hmi11t'nW,cl" I ;J1 ...... ay~ liJ...ed.lf1i1'l. ~A~ l~lll~;J~ 'il w:.It-n't ~ot) bu"~m.~~lilt~,)

suooru SlUNG

The pleasure ~11I this \\"ay of 'l.',orkIDg i.l> thal by 11~\ or I avmg [1 error 011 the: c;"mi1!). 1 a\ oid ihc agony of gcuillg into lmubh: and \I\:a~tin~ precious tjrne with correcting. lrrsl cael, !I can ~njoy the ccnccrurauon of puning incrc'lMng.~ypn.:·t:D~~ t!'IICrJli(;IlIS nn 111){ 'bam,';;!!'., Thutmuy sound difficult, but l~~c cumulntive effect of all that ri~"nncs~ hiJflP~llin~ i,s that ral!1ting actually get., easier a, I g;tl along because the correc~'W('ITk already on my canvas practically tells me what to do next,

Another welcome thing about iti1'o thal [ have a picture that 'looks. authentic from the v~ry lan-\,. .. ·hich mean I

linn 't have 10 wait unnl rhc end {O sec if anything good .i~ going te rum out, Be t of all perhap::.. there L uSlifull~ [I point early UI'I when I know for ~UR' rnf.[ have a ~\ rnner or not

This ~),stcm \'101'k .. wcll bccuusc it make .. sense tund it i ... pure pica lire 10 'SiCC ~1 unfold], By comparing all ongoing brush .. rrokes to the ones already em my CaJrWllIS (thal lknow are right on the burton)" any ensuing mistake .. v, ill ring an alarm <IS soon :is lhey are made-c-as oppnsed to making compari ons to appnoxirmHe or half-light orwreng strokes. In that unfortunate situauen Iv.'OuM nut know If I \\,a:-. putting on a right one or not because there would be nothing "right" to compare it IO~

I !..110\'i. there exists [JI rornanti notion that 'pain1!ti!lg should be a p~l%iunaIC' struggle'. hut I don't believe thai means we have to suffer as \\C work. [ think painting can be pao;"innmc while tm be smooth nmllro"ing and nreeise al ~he same time, Naturally, pailntil],~ will always present problems. but rather rhan fighting them, ~ can u e my discipline and experience to, meet the challenge, By reducing complications 1I} manageable factors=drawing. values, edges. cclors=-they can always be resolved. ] get a kick out uf bcing right (\Vlm dlJC!m'l'fj In ;.J{.Idi1101l to having control, 1 C~1l HI~ .. avnr the cheery rhoughr ttl.]'1 if my pain ing cannot be compll:lcd rOI' some i'~aSI)I1 if the model runs off to 1J1I1.g~1I"ia before the painting, essien ends. or I suddenly dron dead ~ ean rest peacefully w~lh the asxunmee thiJ~ \oVlml [ lett behind was pr b~lbly cr~rrect


In Direct paiadng the working speed Ohl: rate :n 1IiVhlCh accurate shape accumukne) ~hOiJld only be as fa t I!!. comrullcd precision n, i II al~o\\',~ Ob\ inu~ly, some Pilrb of [lny painlil1g can be done quid';]y, oilier "mols need more rime. This 'I,'l,'iU '" airY with IFtIol intricacy of yom !';uhjc'cl, file SI7C of a work, how detailed you wish to paint, 3.lld thl;' ~cvel of your skill. When Y01i.I arc riJIintilflg out-of-doors. man} factors of weather, light, and ether dn;:umsI3n,ce" can affect the rate of workingSometimes ~~.i's. necessary m spend considerable nme mn a clilicalarea to get it just rigln, but the payon' is in the time saved avoiding, orrectice painting, Gelling things righ~ i. H10re imporram than simply rll1ishll'lg a painting.

1 Sorolh ~r.:i:rn:. tu bt.; l11ll:"\I;,"\';,Plion, 1'10111 ~\1m;1.'i) ~nl\ fond Ilrrul:nmg, h~ me hOI. .. SL'I'II.,II,:! '1Iulnl-:!.I ilkI,.:' "I PD,~ C'lb:·lrdc.rrill£ {'If!:.'l:1L1P;~ Ilollu hi~ manner- bm 10 tile \'fIrnciou~n""'~ with which he di~Plltl1:hi!d hi;;, cM1.<l."-e, Tlul ofr-repeatea remark abrnn him ~".a.. .. arr:lrently true, judgill1!:l From other stones related b) his students, wno were ~l:"~1!1 to wn'p after S~':1Dlg him p:lbl1L Sorulln\ peed nnd energy, however. could unly have been poseihle bcceusc '!Jf hrs :'l.IIp.;m til:; rpllne .UHJ I,,:"lpcrh:nll:~

"FAMILY DOLLS" Oil 24" x 48"

Dolls are among my favorite subjects, but I do not have the urge to inject symbolism about them into my work. I find that unnecessary to make my point, so do not read anything cryptic or allegorical into this painting. Nevertheless, dolls are wonderfully evocative in that they are rather like little people. They are more interesting than other still life objects (like apples) in that respect-each doll reveals the mentality of its maker, and suggests the child who played with it. For that reason, I treat them as little portraits, which isn't easy. It is harder than you might think to keep the faces looking like dolls instead of tiny humans. Patience is required, and this painting required nine days to complete-a long time for me. I find it difficult to come back to a painting day after day, and still retain my freshness of thought.

There are no demands [or elaborate or sophisticated brushwork with Direct painting, but if you \'I>'an,t to shov .... otl', you can. Zorn and argent ".",'ere notably fuss}, about hov. the}' put the paint on. and delighted in cocky nourishes-so much . u that their dexterity I::. etten 'the fir::-.t (bing noticed, However, they did U with ... uch consummate , .. kill that we dehght III their h uvado. Piliim'l..'I')o like Serov, Henri, and Twachtman ~in1[[lly didn't c.rrc abuul surface technique, and (10 me) their work ~" somewhat stronger for Ihat The whole point of f)irll!ct painting is '~('j depict faithfu]!), what is "i~!o.'n, not '1\ demon .. trate cleverness with a brush or knife.

}ourpowerls in how critically you observe ;'our UbJCCi. the patience and care with which you paint it nut ]n how ukky you can lJUO\\ the palm around, In any case, Dlr~(;'t pai,nting .i.::. usual I~ done (IS, an "Alla Prima" ~ one SC::'SlOl"l) rendering, and there i .... , rarely umc to be cute .. hout the v,iJY you 3![1pl~ paublL U!'<L: UIl) applicatiun that I:::' fumiliar aml comfortable to ~UU. Paint thick or rhin, with a knife or brush, use ,I mg. or your fil1gcI : i! dnC~I'l't mal1er'l,vhate"d:1' gel ... [he job done .. lust make sure ihatthcse five things happen:

I. Tbar (he paint i ,going onto [he rigbt PL4r.t:: on the canvas,

3. That they are the right C()I~OH.S.


Tlleolr~'llca.H~, Directpainung demands no ~lJedal knowledge or a subjccr other than its visual rheeucterisncs.

Carelus-Duran, Sm'g~m's l~dChl"l·. r..:11 It w~~ unnecessary to have WJ.~' farniliaritj with u s.ubjC'c~. According to him. ,<.I painter merely needed a trained eye, Sargt:'nt him-elf wenteven further, saying [hat artists should not ~hlJ'I' hl!\\ much they know about their subject, and heu r till, should know IWI],jllg 1I'/um .. '1·('r about the nature of what they are painting. He stressed a focus solely on the app arance 0 r things,

Before you get upset about that, let me p int om [hal. WhCll they were mll-ing about vas only the hypothetical ,deul.

TI1;,:) \'! ere ~ay~Elg Wed I r YOLlr "eye" I::. perfect, ~LII you need to do is :f.l'thfull~ copy the pntchwork of colors tha t make things "lsnb~l.), [ can 't argue \\ uh the thc'lDry because it is vahd, hut the rC.1!i~y i .. anoihcr ~'I~ry.o begun ,,,,·ith, no nne (yell i~ rCl"icct. Furthermore, it is ll.mlikc~r not to bmw at lea .. t .. mmNM~rg ahnlll ,vhal· you 3rt:! ra~11.ling.fin:J!l)'. you can bet that in actual practice. [he masters I including Sargent and Carolus-Duran) relied on every last scrap of their experience and education fa help them paint


"SCULPTOR" Oil 16"x18"

It ] .obviously impos ible 10 not know what you do know It is. also foolish not to use helpful and available information. Anyone \\,110 has ever pamred the human figure appreciates that knowing what all of thos "humps" UI't' is a big help ill painting \!'i:hut lh~~, lou!.. ",ke, .r\ basic under uanding of anatomy is ru iall!. fi,gllre painting. Our know lcdgu of \vlml we are looking lit gi'l.cs""i an understanding (],fwh}' our subjects look the \\"::I~ Ill'}, do. II provide us 'I.\j h valuable

. h rtcuts by telling LIS what to '10 kjar. Om knowledge 31] 0' helps us make c(Jnvindng change", where we want them, and it guides us through things rhat are ambiguous or confusing.

I:::ach lime you start a n~u, painting, you bring '1'0 your effort everything that you have learned from C'l,.~ry other pailllullS you have ever done,' The books ynu read, the- formal traililing you have had, your access tu grcut paintings, atl (,hOllldJ come unto play automatically. Having certain information in advancc.rhe btl ic proportions ofthe human head for example. saves you from figuring them out each time you do a portrait . tudy, Even though average proportions rarely maech any face precisely, l'he~, act as (I reference point from which to gauge the individual variants . An unde tanding 0 perspective is obviously an advantag in landseepe painting, and a grasp' of col r mi ing certainly hdp tri seeing color.

YOUI' !;';"'\pJ.:riCI1C~ und learning L111"(, ll'Lciis.p!:fis;ab'le in tricky :si~Uil!~ions I ike \ ... -h1.!11 the subject IIL"im ~s or 'l hen the lighl changes. So" ",lllullo! Direct painting re-ts upi:ln capturing the shapes of color on rOUli subject, your iliggrcgllitc knowledge is working a" ·wC"U. Somewhere 'in the 'mystelrit'U1s, recesses ofymll" mind, it is all there. You t~Q1;LM not avoid including this. knowledge ]111 yOUJi technical deci iOI[5 Dfyou wanted to--ju.st remember that it can never hecomplete. "herefcre. use your knowledge as a tool, n L as a rigid dcierminant, Listen to what nature tells. you us well. Clearly, yom experience and

knowl dgli: give you a powerful advaruagc in whatever yOU! do, Try III bring Ihi 'ki~1 a.l1"~ learning illllnplay "h~11 you

p~ im, but keep in mind thid the rrinrily in Dire l painting i siil! to {Julm I'-/WI .rOIl phy i (Jl~l' S£'I! wht'ifH t'ynll wulel· .. ,mld it 01" not


Thi is. only a brief description of Direct painting, There is much more to it. and in the' chapters that follow ] go into the working elements in much more detail. Itwill all be frommypoint of view of nurse, but remember, mille ~ n't the onl} one, The variety and tylt$ of Direct painling arc endless, and what 1 h. vc outlined so far is thl;! ~pmri[ and partial

'lib 'tance of i~.

rnt is a Yelly simple id~a-rt!ducc your subject to essential visual shape andipaint them accurately, nothing man; than that, but ~1 gave rise to some of'the most joyful painting in. all of history.

"NANCY PAINTING" Oil 12" x 16"



The ~h~ng::;; you do at the start ef a 'painting tfrcmIifc or otherwise} 'will determine the entire course of your work, They will make the difference 'beh v een an achievement or an ordeal, This is, about taking control right away, It is never enough JUSt to be ilfltthe threes of inspiration .. Before you lift a brush, take orne lime ro think about \~ hat you intend 10 do.

lotice certain things, make a fe\\ decision .and the« stert painting. Thmk or yourself as being at (he stan ol a beauutul journey wuh sume erdinury rcaliucs Iyillg alt~ad. If II were a reul trip, p~rh"'[l:S in a cur gomg across l'OUI'llry, )OLl would warn to have mtup~. credit cards, gas, enough time, and a de .. rination. OfCOllII'SF.!. you must know hmvln drive' above all. you must h. vc a route. YOlLl must have a Ilall! to get where you wish 10 go, tarring a painting i. much the 'lame,


Be prepared! AU uf your gear should be III J state of readiness 5.0 you C~l1 concemrare 011 panuing. Choose your brushes u~ you would c11001'>C \vl.::,lpcms before buulc, Make certain t'hey • rc dean and lh..: hri:.llc~ wen-shaped. [lave your palette <;t::~ up beforehand withplenty {If fresh paint. Make Slue your turpentine, mineral spirits (or water if you are 3 watercolorist]. are dean and ample, Have plenty of-rags or paper rowel handy. See that your ea el i ·h,.m1y, and if you are O]J(dOUlrN, \\eU-anchored. Wh~n all sy terns are ready. reiux; lake a deep breath, and approach YOIl1f canvas as you would your lover or a sumpmous meal


When )'OU first confront} our subject, check to see that it is exactly what you want, That may be a problem i . you are in an an chool or painting g;nlUp and someone else i in charge. Whatever situations you lind yourself in. exammc the subjeci carefuHy to see il'anYlhing about it bothers you. mr it does ~ami iryou. can), make t.he changes you dC:::.L["C.

Scan your ,-ubJI.::t:1 for things fh~lt an.' clearly Impos siblc, Aller [111, pail.il isn't magi ! If you SCI.: 11111L certain elements in the subject are beyond the limits llf your pigments, tr) lo rOHIIrl an ~dC"L bcforchnnd ofhow }O~l arc Going to hundle those area \\ hen you gC'~ to ihem, Acceptable c mprornises of nne kind or another are 1.1 ually possible, ]11 the urgency to "gei going" with a painting. it ~s tempting too kaye those solutions for later .. but dont let thet happen. Know what YOIJ must do hefiJl'f.:' you do iL! 1 ~ am not suggesting that you must be able LO l, isualize your eventual painting in complete d tad. only that you scnuiruze your subject at the bcgunnng lor potential problems, and cil:hcll' COi.1lC up \"'JlI1 answers or make changes al the ~ltI"l.l eun Ui.J, e 11.'1.111) of my luilurcs back tu the beginning of a painting when I rushed! into it justto get going, nnh to d,il.'SCl..l\ cr later rhut r Im.dn"~ the \':I]glrlt~sl idea of how m was goin..;' to handle certain key areas. Rude surpri ses later an! no fun i U 1;1 when everyth i ng eo 1 s c is goi ng nicely;

"JULIE" Oil 16" x 20"

If you arc happy wi th your ubject arid there arc no mysteries abour ~[ rema i ning in your mind, do a simpl e ana lys i ... of what is in front of you. It is not enough W ~. e \!" hat col]" eyes the III del has and lh~1IJI stan. Be ore) 011 b . egm any ]l<.linling, .!la\ c t~ clear gr.Jsp or the distribufion or ~igh'l on she subject Notice its OVCf"",U direction (du.n .. ea, .. y)!, and its

I -mpCIl',I)IUfC which is l'ool'ilc~il11e~ not so easy (~C'C Chapter 7}.I'OIJrt b}: asking yourself critical questions ucha the foHm\"ililg:

L \~,Tllich side of the subject L lightes] or darkest? '1 his may seem simple, 'but in laadscupe painting, it is not always obvious.

2, Is the light clear <lind sharp 01:" diffused? Are there strong cast shadm. .... s or are the darks softly modeled? look at the edges of she hadows for that, bright hght by itself will not necessarily produce hard edges. Is there any strong reflected light bouncing around?

J, \:\thcru are the I.igM(·!l'1' ~igh1 areas, the ,Aw~f!st darb, the .~"I'Wf1c.!u edges, the comph~~e~y "lost" edges? This is: p;:Jj'I'lil!;;u~ar~y important in ~slahJio;hing 111 range of values and edge in ,I paiming, (Chlilpler~'.)

4. How warm or coo] i the light'! Are the shadows warmer or cooler than the hght areas on lit' ubjl:Cl'?

6, I, there an obvi us color harmony in the subject as a whole. or is rhe harmony subtle. a ]11 daylight? (Chapter 7'.) ~s the harrnony created by the light amplified by related local colors in the subject? (Thishappens \\ ith snow and water and fields of grass.)

7. \:\rhal sort or technique do you envision? How do YDY \1II'~!ll to put your rla~m on? Are you going to use :JJ broken color rendering, or trong fluid brui hwork, or someihing ~te? Do youimenda thickly painted rendering or thin?' Where ale' you goilng to shcvel the paint OIl, and where do you want to keep II thin? (Chapter '9.)

9. Are there any dra\.'\ ing ITr0b~c!11"i? Is there {on~'''honcnilllg ~(I contend with? Are thereperspective distortions. or are~t of ambiguity or confusion'! J there aJl}1htng in .he subject that would look weird if painted?

10. I' there good light on ) our cam as; Is the ligihgorng to change?

I L Are you going to ha\ e a, problem wnh glare 011 your canvas'? If so. 110W are yOIlJ going to deal with it?

]2. ls the subject going to change? 'What arc you going ro dn ubout that?

13. Lastly (as if all or that weren't enough}. consider how much or what you are looking at YCllI really need [0 paint, ur wom \0 paint or have time to paint.

Well HI. iT i~ qu~k a IUs-L ,I could have gone 01"1 for several mere rag.~~. bUL I dun'l wunt you to ~cl the ill\!i;I that you must C'l1ndL!("t ~11 exhaustive countdown In blast-off each time you hegin a Jlalnting. BI;;"jlue:.,;. )'OU t'<Il11li101 foresee e~,'er.wMllg at [he cutset, there is '100 much, and you might end up in a kind of paralysis. l am recommending only that y(1'U take lime t,o notice certain iroportam details. the w,ay you would at the starr orarn~ new task.

The actual husiness of painting unfolds as, a troke-by-strokc process. and every work demands countless uopredictablc decisions rnude ulnngthe n·!.I~, Nt.::'I,~Flhdc~s, and like it 01' nut, all ofthose trunsieut l.l.',cisi{lIn,s will be

gO\ erned by the few' crucial choices and uhservr tions made ;:[1 the .. turl. here- really aren't tfiUt many, and '~\ il h experience 311d discipline you will he able to take them all in v"ith 31 few quick glance. TI will become second nature to you like checking ~o . eeif your more vital buttons are buttoned before you go OLLL After all, you can 't stand around talknng to yourself all day, there is a panning to be done!'

z eRn !f\:G 1 'I

One good short CUlt i to make a decision 'lhol1t which of the vi-mal a'iflech or your sll~jcct ym.l \"1 ish to emphasize.

The idea ~~ to focus more sharply on your objective and ignore things you are mot interested in. 'In do this, ask yourself what made you choose your .':!ubJect ~jut Jikuig itis not enought, Try 10 identify Ute tangible (pamtablc] element and be a !lopcdfic ib you can:

Or me you more interested in the DESKiN in your subject the rclarienship of mao ses flf' line!'.

This is one of hundreds of sketches I did at the Palette & Chisel Academy between 1984 and 1991. Most, like this one, were two or four hour studies done in a day or in one evening. All were essentially just block-ins carried a few steps forward., but stopping, in most cases, short of formal portraiture. In the

. beginning, I was doing them simply for my own pleasure and education, but I soon came to appreciate the value of painting within a group. The artists at the Academy were, and surely still are, a wonderfully eclectic bunch. Along with the camaraderie of working with other struggling painters, I learned about their (and my) most common problems, principally those that arise in painting from life. Drawing was, by far, the most prevalent, though least acknowledged., technical fault. The lack of a well-ordered and logical starting method was the typical procedural problem. A poor start inevitably led to failure.

"PRESIDENT DON" Oil 20"x 18"

If you decide [h~t color ].t. your goal, ~jlcrl don't be SiC! fussy about elaborate development of the drawing Of values or cd~~ ~_ [That ~e~l1L'lticl [0 ~ Mml!.:I ".'i, cho i cc.) ] r. 0111 the ot her hu mJI. y~.m urcintri gued by (he Jrumal ic val U 1Gs, and intri C [JW drawiag oppcrnmitics, then settle for mereb adcqllOue color und ccneentrutc your rnzzlc-daaale on those: other qualities. (Sergent did this habitually, 5'0' did 7om.) I'm nut 'ldvislrlig; that you be slipshcdin the areas of secondary interest Be accurate, butjusl don't go overboard wuh them. You willsarely have enough rime 10 l:JIa~nr everything 10 its Iimir ;]my\\ay lM'JJ~CSS you are doiag a still life, but even then your painting will be stronger if a single element predominates (as the ::'0]0 pM~ Mantis out in a concenuj.

Ah ~'aJ! yml mOlY SI1IY what about the aesthetic qualiues 10 bl&: capturcd rn n subject? Whul ... lbollJt the .~pi~·itil(lr meed in a landscape or the e)!.pr-e"'s~mlin a perl'ion\ eyes? \Vh~lt about tenderness. compassion, feeling, or simple beauty? WeU ] '~1'1 sorry '~O ::;a-Y.r'iorie of those things C'OI'D.'lCS in paint tubes, !tdl ofthose intangiMe qualities ,~r,e teeling .. that you have about yom subject, and all must be reduced to ~hapes. of pair ill before they can appear on your canvas .. The look of innocent wonder in achilds Iare 1TiIU~l be seen .:IS ,[I. drnwing Inaner: the mood In a landscape i~ probably a study ~n cokrrs, values, and l~d.!;c::.. IJ},'ou can translate your poeuc in~~g:ht into teelmlcal term» like l~1al. then ]t should not be dimcul,'~ to determine which visual ClCI11Cm or cornbirmtion Qf elements lin the subject is lor are) prod~I(,,~l1g the .urli!>llc attribute thet f ... scinates you.


Don ''I just start smooshing p~grm,~nbl around, Think about the (jnln tn which you "l,' un apply your key cli:mc:nt ....

There win [~IW~lyS. be S011L1t: obviuuslh~rilgs .. bout your subject or eircumstcnces that \II,'illl suggesta~ogit:r11 sequence of painting. Certainly the first considerations should he .about thekind of picture you have in mind. the nature Of;'OUf subject. a real i sti c awaren ess 0 r your abi I ~ ty, and the time ava i lablefor working, 1\ ext silo u ld come deci sions en wh at i s m 05;[ importenr tech« ically in 'your subj eet, and ';l'l hat. type of underpai nling you need. the prepara t(lry work _( If ,any),whkh\l\'iU rnakc ensuing edges easier to achieve.

VI.lhl.:n~vcr [ can. [ paint the pov.'Crfllll and obvious I.hlng:s in my subject fks1. I do lhe ensy-to-see cle~'m]C~l~S such ;IS clear-cut shapes, distinct colors." and strong values, because it is a !lU["C wayto gel correct painting 01'11 the canvas tight a\l:!;1!y-and the sooner I have aceurase ra~iiltillig ~1IfI, place, the easier the rest of it will he. Also. apainting always goes more smoothly if lleave the >oplional detail for later,

A~ 1 paint, I lry 1)0 Zlm~.i.cip{HC [he edges 1:0 come. Here ~s an example, orne that of len OCCI.liIi:S in landscape painring, Ml'Irl, I.LI.lu!scap~s nppeur to have four to!DIHC'\vl.mT distinct ··pl .• mcs,'\ [I fon\:~roLlfld, middle-ground, the distance. and sky. The order in which they are ~OI~d on can ,'nJrk l!]lliler Wif/i me or agm'n.~·1 me, in starting. ~ like VO purthem in from backto front+the sky first, then distant forms. tben~he middle-ground elements, and lastly the ihmgs up dose. Once those areas have been established ] can go back to paint into any spot ffi wish and 'be assured of achieving inregrated edges, U.

howot;:,I .. er, I. paint. Stu)" trees first and then attempt to pU1. the sky behind them, the OPfH1S.i1(; win happen, The resuhing ed~e~~ will make the sly a.!TI.rl,!ar~.o be ]nJium (!!r'~h~ tl\~~S~

Jn nlly experience, any situation where complex forms are seen against a simple and higillly-coma,-asling background rl!)ql.ll.tirC~ the bacl~rl)und. to be irgJuJy painted first, followed by the fO,I'T11S, then some repainting back and Ierth of 'tDmh to achieve the '!.'",riet)' of lL:::tlgC,~ n~L.Ci,;'~s:1r), Ihl";:I three-dimensional dlccl.

To give another example: In am doing a p'0'rtrnit and 1 draw [he fcrnl\lr~!', withlines before Ip1Jj~ on a general f1e!'ih tone. it will be awkward to paint the flesh color up to and around the features. Repain'hn~ of the features ".\"in be necessary [hen 10' produce: the. correct edges. ln nearly all cases, regardless of the subject. it is LlSU!i.'I]ly safer to establish the general tones Iirst, and then paint the , ... maller shapes, such as facial features, lulv them,

The ... c arc cx.mlpICt> of my workin]; habits, I~Dl ~ny rules, I drm'~ ;:uhv;;lJYs. paint I.iXacl~» m, I have ... lcscribed and YOLI shouldn't either, Be flexible Ihi,;; orderin which you ]mtrnullice the elements of a p<a,inhng .. hould nul he a rigid system, \\-"hilt worked last rime may not work tlhi:s rime. "'Iou need ro be flexible enough to adapt to llie individual demands of each situation .. 1)00111'[ follew a procedure because you read h somewhere, or some artist (includingme) says thatthat's the way it should he done. U mus: n131k.~ good sense 10 Yl1<U, and. :il must OlJ~')ply 10 ymuF tir1f.;um::'W.llces.


Ifyeu are al'l nil painter; there i" also the con. .. istencv ef naint to consider. U is a good idea to follow the old tried-and-true advice of progressing from thin paint':: to thick paint, (Or "fat" over '·lean"as.~111 the older references.) Thick paint in the beginning stage is nornecessary, and it can be maddening TO workinto. Saxe the buttery sluff 1'1:)]" the finis.h~d tOI' I ayer hru .. hst F1Dkc~_

Thick paun-U uV~r!~1jn i~ al~o ssfer lrorn the slamlpo~l'Il of permanency. Thin pa'i'l"u on lOp of [hick lis: hlk:dy ~o crack C'VCI1 when working wer-into-wet. Extremely tn il{,~kr"int 1(lnOIl: thilln 3mm orl !~,ill'l('h) on canvas is certain [0 crack, !Z\ en under the most. favorable conditions. '\loliTil1<1ltluctuations in 1emperah.ll"C' and humidity, and time itself will see to that If you are fond of thick pa int . doit on a more rigid s tlpporl. something other than stretched canvas ~ sue h as '" lute lead primed untempered Masonite' \I) to reduce th~: cracking r a ctor


Explore the systems of successful painters for ideas you can usc. Ifyou are fi:mmmate enough to be able to travel, use that opportuni try to vi sit muse ums to 5t!'C tJ1C ~mji.rl is ked works of masters ,. The rnajcrinst itutions may not show many beeauseth e lP re fer [he aHenU.on t and th c rl7ion: h~\ enuc) ~a i ned from f]ni shed pieces. 1-10"'" ever. if you seek om the smaller places, or better stili the studies ~md horne- ofraintr;;['l:, lh::l!l are Op~I'I h) lh~ public (like' Sorollu \, in _V1addd~Uld ollheb), }"i)U will rind many of their rainhl1g~ in various :-.t;.]ge" of cnnrlip]CI~oFl. Sl1L:u:ly '1111!':111! They are marvelous lessons in [llrocedufe bee au S e rhey s hew I h C' seq LIenee of working,


See if you can figure out why they chose their particular approach, and where you think they would have taken it.

Try to analyze what they did and what their problems were. Or better still, what their problems would have been, had they continued. (I enjoy such speculations.) Look at their smaller on-the-spot color sketches too. Each one is like a miniature beginning. It is great fun to do this detective work instead of just gawking at finished masterpieces. I think more can be learned from those half-starts and personal sketches than from their major works. When I look at them I can almost hear the artist thinking.

"ALASKA SALMON BOAT" Oil 10" x 16"


You willknow }'OU have a good ~t:JJrl when you have enough COITCCl pailllling on your canvas so you can clearly 'I!C where lOUI' wcrk is headed nnd that the direction is lhl;.; Of1l,! >~JtJ Itlrl'luled. This mitial st~.gC' is tII:Sll~ll1y referred [0 as a "blotk-in," The amount of pH~nling ncce •. ary to , ecure a useful heginning l\ HI ""::Ir~. OI1~ painter may need a very extensiv ~ block-In to feel confident, while :ill'ilolhe'r might need only a !few accurately placed lines and dots.

The nature of the subject and how you intend too paint it will can for block-ins that may be quite simple in some situations and more complex 'in others. A subject contaiuing only [I, few w,d~-dJcfincd !.halles b easier lu blo k in Lhan one f~ Ih:tl " ith u j umble of contrasting v[lhJI,;~ and cclors. A ~iI1'1p]C pornuit ~tlldy, e head cenu .. ~r~cl within 3J Ci.1Ilvm, for example. Ini~ht require 110 block-ill at all. merely a fe\.' colors for the flesh tom: .. Large rompnsirionnl rtlillling .. with many elements otkn call for extensive block-ins before (II dear picture of their design effectivcne can be ccn, Likewise, subiects 111~.U are \fery elaborate and intricare in drawing need more careful attention at the start It l .a good idea to get the hang of several blo k-in methods :'U' that you are capable of choosing an appropriate response,

One of m) ~ri.cr]1.I is how Jiu/t' ] need In pUI en the canvas heron.: rn can :!,;t:1 il1t rini~hing bru-hwerk.' ~ll) bl ck-in 'IV m be on ly~\,·ha'l i~, ~1 ~ees!>J'r~, to. dcal wi t h the si re 0 f rl'ly pictu re, the com p~ ex it}' of the subjec I:. the I rr ~ of rend er i ng ] wio-,lnr In use, and the avnilehletime 1 11 VC.


The many \'1ia) ~ of ration Hy :,lanlng a I'ail:'lling can be livided Wll1!to two rather hmi.lll cil!tcgoric - -lh e ')~I!.!ms thut irureduce accurate pictorial clcmems gmt/IUlUy. and lhosi.:' which es(ahiish them imm(,>llia;('~I·.

The first group of starting methods (gradual) is the most ccmrnonplace. nearly all represent different ways to manage the complexnics of color and! form 1 'irhom taking everything on al[ at once. They it1l\'olr' neaking up on the subject in one' \vay or another; ~'~os.t of these gradational systems withhold certain important items until rhc \'cry end=-rhiugs hke the mcstpnwerful cclors on rhe subject, the purl' white or black values, and even the C !:lJC1 drawin ",

hose strong pl!on'lchc~ 0'111.: held in rc 'en, c for Ih~ final ,'Iage~ of 'Ih~ wo .llc The idl::l is ttl u\'oidl making specific cerrtrnitmcnts until ~I comfutl:lble appl'n'fimo{iml' of'the subject 'IS 011 the canvas [0 be' able to visualize [hoc: painting ~l'" .1 \'\ hole nefiJl"t'tti1e appl ication ofthe true colors. value . edges, and drawing,

The se-cond group ol starting ystem is more sophisncated. They bypa , the ketch}' ~age and. go directly into the acrual colors and shapes seenon [he subject. There ere as fe\1I;,1 prefirnlnaries as possible, and. accurate peiming !!.ttHb. \\Ihb the .1 J ::.1 str kcs, llmhc'I, er, lIte), require a more distinct menial image of the Finished work (10 ~1r\ c ~l> .1 J;uicl·). ~)f'id much tighter discipline, csp 'ci~ny in drnw1ng, .·\lthiJ~lgh rn have worked v" ith all or 'rl~~ lumili 'r st. I'ling method' in she years I 11,I\-e been p.lill1ting. i h3\C C('1lT1e 10 use these rather impromptu begii'l~ing. more 3'T1id more. not because- they are better, but because th Y Me more fun.

"Frmshing" for me ... iJJl1} -rroke 1 .J.ppl) that do~~ no~ need chartlging or ...Ilt~'-Jilion by overpuinung, l-uushed ,LruL.:.s. are 11"10\1.:' llw "111 .lp('k:.lr on ~h~ 'llrl'a!..:'!." ~,I' Ih "1~.lIfltin "hCft II I .. compkh:lI

"EARRING "s-Beginning stage

"EARRING" Oil 16" x 12"

This small quick study was started as a line and mass block-in because the pose was not an easy one for the model to maintain, and I had to indicate her hand positions immediately. The colors and values were uncomplicated, so it was mostly a problem in drawing. It was necessary to establish the placement of the hands in relation to the head at the very beginning because they act together as a single unit The line approach with a thin wash for the masses seemed best. -Once the important major shapes were placed, I could render them individually while still having the whole picture before me. The excessive warmth of the tones is due to a slight deterioration of the dyes in the photographic film I was using at the time. The actual color of the model's dress in the original painting, for example, was Ultramarine Blue.

ST JRTTli~'f. 4:.f

HCJe are six way:-> that Lstart a painting. Ml are oil .p:unting pro edures, bllU the prin~ipk~ mv I' ed can, lor lit ' most part, be- applie I to other mcdnrms. The exception i!'i watercolor; ~h requirements demand ~! unique sequence of paint application, in practice W don't always usc these \1Ii1:!}I!> eIl1~r,e~r as discrete ~y5~cm". rather I usc them 91'l cornbinarion according 10 m) need.


This time honored mJ:lln.o~ goc so IfllJ" back in time that its origins are kl~l pi,;'rhaps to wll('u our prd'l~~loric pal::> r.r~t JI.·ClV on '1.:(1\ c wulb., The Mii1l..lan' used It on their pornogmphic poucry C as did the Wnciils).lh Chinese used it n their screens , our Renais ancc colle~gne~ used il for everything. (lind our friend, John Singer .' argent (among meny others) used it ~1 lot for largerworks,

Thi. block-in is little mere than a hne dra\\ ing with colors and values pla ed between the linc-alnm!!l.l lik..: a coloring book or p<.lint-by-numbt:rt. rendering. ( "x .ept that there are "'.10 numbcss, and ym~ do the lines '100.) ~n ni~ painting it is u ually rendered on a C1JI1Il'!la::. rightly-toned wit'h <I "';)5111 of:'!' g'l"il)' color to "kin" the white ground. (B~aC'k and Terra ROosa IHiIX~Ul"'~ ~iJr cxampie.) TI1i.: lines are eu .. tomorily done \",dth oil paint or charcecl Uhe rwo f;)!.voliites}. but pencil, pastel and alltn st any other inert substance will do jus t a well,

The rna s tones are laid on between the lines very thinly. as a. "scurnble" (paun SCI'UJbbcd onj, or a a wash cf 0]18 thinned wnh turpentine Of one of ~B subsrnutes, such us mineral ~pir~'L~. When lh~~ colored dri;l.\\ ing is fini:...hcJ. tt i.::. painted I()V'L;:r completely W.i1h epaque pigment. which of coue c, oblilcr.Jles the cruirc thing. ,~,rhy .Go Iu <.1111 of that work and then cover it up':' Because It SI.: \CS a 1"> a 1111;;1:0. Mo t painters ;JI1r'e' more at ease starting with outlines ruther than mas .. e .. ~ in OUT traiaing.prebably all of uswere taught to lise a. line dHlv .. ing as a guide. ~ have watched many painters work from life, and ~ have rarell)' come across one whe did not need :;;;om.e vilay to visualize h~s or her artistic idea as a lmc dra\ving before starting, It, eerns almostinstinctive 10 ILlS!'; lines, even Ihoug[1 the first ones pl"C'l.!'ll may be ruther . lapdash. ~

J \\'1,; learn 10 droll.\ this \\:l)' ;1'> children. " he variou- [lr1 rl11111" we are- involved with whC'R1 \\1; ;rn: YOWlg cartoons, comic books. coloring

books, ell;. an: most!} colored line drtl"il~.r:r~. Perlilap$ our later sense of security workmg wi~lin 1i11':~ sterns from till!> enl)' g-rouIlJlllg. h i~ a learned e. pcn.:n c. hrn"'L:'\ er, Il..lvie" .JJlJ ~';£} yuung ehildren !luke th~lr 0\\ n \i:nhhlc'l ~ptJnlaI'l":()lI"ll. 111.:n rrugfC:o>'I 1 PW1OJUr:Lwing"" Bccau-e of the ul1l.h'\ch1p..!LI moto elmlwl 111 Hlc!1: h.Jm!~. the, arc Hlih~LH}' unable til -;t:.l~ within Imc~ "hen ~nloril1~ in their nj'!>~ coloring books Thcymus] be Ilre:<:'i\lrcd tn dt~ [hJI by adults. thus rot' ll.?ller or worse. a lifelong: habit is established.

- Sargent olien 'ri.'qmr.:J \"'1} lrnle Do gel guing UI.l punruu h~ad: u fc\\ IJnc~ \, uh .J durt.:o.d suck III imhralc pilit:cl'm:n1 uf • hoe h c • .. d II'ncl~ ~i

~n'lhp'ID\,·nt \I, ,bin lor ,LB the tlmh il1 the ,uhjt;rt uml h,lckgmmu.l. lind hil1~Ll'! HI.': \\.1" T-..:aJ:. ror line ~e'ri(lu, pi.lm1.

"NUDE "-Stage one

"NUDE "-Stage two

This painting (appearing only in its finished stage in my book on figure painting) is a line and mass block-in similar to the way I started paintings in art school. In stage one, I used few lines because the subject is simple in form-back views always are, which is why, with so little to work with, it is important to get things right. Note that the transparent wash on the figure is very close to the finished flesh tones, and I have some of the key darks indicated. In stage two, I am already into the finishing colors, and it is clear where this painting is headed.

"NUDE "-Stage three

"NUDE" Oil 30" x 24"

Stage three shows the figure nearly complete. The picture as a whole is almost at the point (in retrospect) that I wish

I had stopped. The note of red which appears in the final stage is a definite plus, but it should have been placed at the very beginning, because it is such a strong clear color. The final stage also has some nice palette knife work in the foreground, and the strong whites in the same area enhance the richness of the model's skin color, so it is not a total loss.

"PA INTER" Oil 9" x 19"

The day was cold and windy at the Ellis Ranch in the foothills of the Colorado Rocky Mountains .. The painter is a sketching companion (who did better than I). The problem for both of us was to get something done fast before we froze. The most direct approach, therefore, was working with careful drawing and brushwork from the start. It was only necessary to apply a tone for the sky, the trees and the foreground, before getting into the detailed painting of Lou. Notice that the sharp edges and strong colors are on the figure (my priority and focal point), and the rest of the picture is what may be called broad brush painting.

tarring om [I'I a sketchy way feels safe. You can fool around trying this and that until things seem "right'then go on (0 do as mud) correcting and Rl,l1ilpLJ!latlon of your composition and drawing a you nt:~d-be!ore you lay tn the serious pailr'U .. Few things in painting are more pamful than havine to scrape off some 1lJ1' stcrly 'ork done in the \Ii. mng :-'pOl!

\\I'hcn YOIl b!:gin wnh kCh:hy ~int;~. keep Wiil nund Ihal theil' rUll!clion i~ to ~~~.abli~ h ~he gt:n~ralll~lan'"u,'IIt or your

ubject within the picluru area. rather than tile J1redvl! outlines, uf what you <lire going to paint. 'W'orry only abut where ),ou wish to put your major "h'lpei'i. and 11 ()l'!,' big erlitrle they are. Don't go for detail 01' prOfl)I.Ind revelations ahem the subject ar lb;i poim. The goal of this kerching stage is to organize the overall comsosition and [nerdy suggest important drswing elements, suchas anatomy. or perspective. or pHlponl~milo. Keep YOlJl[ paint thin (but not necessarily lhinncdJj trunsperem ~r possible, ah. you sketch.A huilriup of hc~n.y paint in the beginning call be troublesome later.

When allthat has been cromplishcd [he .. ketchy work has served its pnrpose. It is pointle .. s to continue \\ ilb it unlcss vou intend that look to be U1C prevail ing surface appearance for the remainder of the painting. The hnpressioni ... ts and many others did ju t that but lhey were pursuing "broken color" effects to the exclusion or ether pictorial clements, Ir you wi h to rake your painting beyond mere sciutillaung dabs of color, you mus: break a'Aoay from sketching and g,(;t careful. '.'ou rnust shi 11 ymu tluuking and make the I illcs and pluccment of ma rscs ~t!; uccu r: uc as you cun, because theu new jeb w. to pinroinl c.''W(:t(I' '~'\hcre the finishing pHlnl must go.

This !i ne and mass block-in is ideal for organizing complex compositions, particularly larger paintings with numerous figures 0'1" objecrs. h is important to keep the drawing lines very fine in portrait or figure pamring. If you use ~ brushthat leaves half .. inch wide hnes to draw all! altraC'li" ~ lady's nose, the result could be dis.a.;).lrOLlS, lt isn't necessary (:0 be squeaky uig:hl \" ilh yuur drawing, just make sure the line that you make do not consthute discrete shapes in themselves. Yourlines sholllM define 11 border between shapes without adding volume 10 the fcarure . h isn't necessary to UN!! li,n)

bru he. fur your lines unless 'ou prefer to. lf your large I1nl. bristle brushes are good quality and '1'eIl-. hapcd, they will 'produce nne lines as well a'S broad sjrokes. The palene knife. used on edge, is perfect for more sulnle lines.

D Rt-\W [lAC K S

There are two '1l-e(l"aH~s~cs in rhis lim: drawing approach, First, it is very time 'consllm'illlg,~f time is impnrHmt (as in landscape painting], YOllI maywant to keep things brief by going after only the largest massesin your painting. If your ubjeci is lOO complicated to be reduced U) a lew .imple areas then you mu t either find more time to complere the picture: by arranging for several painting sessions, Of noll a differ 'n1 approach. (I come [0 ~IUI later.)

ccond, the quulil} of edges may suffer when the Finishing paint is <lPllil:d because of tendency to pailH lip 10 the lines, bu~ 1101 infO ehcm _ he en uinrJ rendering \""ill lack the looseness and lluidity il !nighit otherwise have. Sargent seemed (0 gc't around an of that very nicely because he \\:iJ.S not dependent on his lines. The)' represented only indication to him.

Perhaps beeaui e of the need to have them in the fust place, less s.li!li~~L. urcd painters and even experienced ones arc rcluetanr to see the lines disappear; However, II should nor be ~munid.aling. If you v,anl '~O redraw lho hncs, you should be able to. Besides, [ don't know of any other \."I,y of leuing goo thnnju ... l doing it.

~ ) remember Bill Moshy delibernll"l) ,viping iffi<lY my ~rfoc~lj good paintings from lime 10 lime 10 see 1fT could repaint them. He

~'<1JI. III d dun doing :l pdinlmg \~~.I1 uun 11lI~till be an m:ciLl..:nlbut not 'l~\in.: in :.ut:u.:"~hm.

"IRON FENCE" Oil 16" x 30"

"IRON FENCE" appeared as painting sequences in my earlier landscape book. This intermediate stage is the only photo that survives of that series. It shows how transparent washes can be used as an underpainting when a subject has complex drawing features. The great advantage of this method is that the transparent darks here can be retained throughout the finishing process, and there is no excessive paint in the light areas to interfere with subsequent overpainting, Observe that I gave attention to the values, drawing, and edges at this point. My only real problem was in maintaining the soft edges during the finishing process. The painting was completed in one day, so J was able to work wet-into wet, which made 'it easy to achieve the edges I wanted.

2. TR.A ·SPA.REj'>.,T (01 L) 10!\OCHRO ,IE B U 'K-W

The transparent monochrome blo~l-ii'l is a step lip' I'um the pf..:viou. method, II is. ~ ncaTly complete value lowdy done with one euler on l] white lead ground. The mtionalehen.;vc th3~ you can work om an the flfOblems mvalue, drawinc; mid edges, without worrying about coloF-then d I the fil:lii hedpainring (lin top of ir w'ith opaque painr, The r,endCringitse1f is similar ttl principle to> doing a fun value' charcoal or Conte drav .. ing----e'llcrept tbat brushes and paints are u ed instead of stick ofdrr pigment Lights and darks arc achieved by addlug OIl' removing pi~mcm Irorn the canvas surface. ),In white p'aint is used to create value ill the block-in. The flnal result is. a color painnng 01110p ora monochrome p.aiming.

The beauty or \wrkilllg, with monochrome pailll in this way is that the bkrck-in looh like the suhject almost immediarely bee 'USC of the attention to edges IJJ.nd v'lhl.les. The' fUII1 of it is that paint can be pushed around endlessty without a buildup ofp~~nt, and ,\1'il1r!out cresting a mess. ofdismal C'oJOI" (since there ~s only one color).

The working surface must be nonabsorbent and smooth. A high quality linen canvas or a n1;Js(J]'IilC lI:mnd \\ rth 3 minimum oftesture is best What~\ell' [he support, it must be primed with ~1hile /eucl. I n()~\ U~~ <I ~mUI th h!'x'llIrl.:'ti. triple' [primed cam. So' Other grourrds suei'D. ns acrylic prime ,''''j II fliJ1 work: it stt"'~Il1iS immediately and cannot be hrought back 10 f!Ub"l~ white, as 'white lead C;[Hl. To 11;-s;t any surface Wor its manipulative capabitity, apply OI.l'lC strong color SllCh as erra Rosa, 81JI{)l",\' it to sit 11~)r a rU][Iute, then wipe it off with 3 rag. Tf the Terra ROosa come away completely lea'r~ng the original white ground, ~~ is the right stuff'

h is. possible to enhance (he working qu.ahly of bU'lh U'lc p~lim und lh:~ ca.11vab by applying a wh~ per thin fill'l'l If cold-pressed linseed o~1 to the ~1U'racc_ or m~xing a (]rop Into lhL: pailn it~c!f. s long as the oil is kept I I a mimmum. ~h-re ",,'ill be no prob~cnl~ with the fil'l.lll\ (lJvcrpain'lil'lg.

1\Y 'WA R ['y'~

J use warm red or brown earth colors for my block-in Ul.'I'{'l" cool co\o:J:". or yellows, Blue, green, and, l'io1ct COlON ~n all underpainting cause "muddy" [oak when lh~' show through the final paint A ycllcw llmdcrpairnrtirng cause'. a disruptive effectin j lldg~!lg subsequent colors, particulariy 'l nh porrrair or figurative work, U also tends to mix into

sub. equcnt paim, or it shows, through between brushsirokes, producing a diagreeabltl jaundiced look. \\laml red, 'fedbrown. and orange-brown eanh colors, on the oth r h3ind OiJC~ W enhance the final dm~ in ,1). palnling. because they mO'I:'!: closely replicate '[he: actual temperature relationships, I rarely gu us dark os black \\ ith this block-in, but when 11 i. .. necessary, J use Transpnrcru OXLdc Bl\lW~lI with a touch uf Ultrumarinc DllII~ mixed in. Orhen.:'!o'ise my nH'lSI frequent choice for the rnouoehrome colo" ]$ usually Term Rosa alone. I prefer ro use these 'pigll"le:n1tS because I tend 11.0 leave some portion of the block-in visible as part of my finished paiming, and they are absohuely permaneru even in the rhinn st ef washcs.'

[fyou have doubts about a block-in color, simply mo, a. color that doesn't resemble any identifiable color f~ml~ly; such a color \u]l, 3,( least, not interfere with anything.

{ll~ aWJ' from \andy].;c Bru\\ II or Bnnu Umber for an underpainting fm for an)1i1in~ else). BOLh have a nasry h;l.bit of crackmg. Simple rmxiures of more ::.wble colors \\,11 C':l.~II.)' match them, Try l~ollllllillallon~ urlrill'l~fUrt'lll O);.IJ~ Jl{~l~, 11urIll '. i.:m'M, .irul UIIrJ.mann~ RILlc \ 11".lahJ'.lr~nI O\Hk Ro,;d ami \lruJI;Jfl mlxhm.: i~ Id~;lll1)r LlIldcrp.:!intinl; .1 1~,nd"C'~(1";


"MONOCHROME STUDY" Oil 16" x 12"

Terra Rosa and Venetian Red were used for rendering this quick (two hour) portrait of a young actress. It shows how monochrome painting can be used effectively if natural color is not the main goal. I was after her expression, and that is what I got. Full color could not have done the job better. To add just a bit of extra color quality, I gave my canvas a very light wash of Vi rid ian plus Transparent Oxide Red.

I was careful, however, to let the mineral spirits of the wash dry thoroughly before 1 worked into it with my earth colors.

The quality of the ground, like the quality of paper in a watercolor, is crucial. to this way of working. A white lead ground, one that is double primed, and preferably triple primed is ideal (whether used with canvas or a panel). Acrylic gesso grounds will not do because they stain immediately, and pigment cannot be removed entirely. I must be able to manipulate my paint so that I can wipe my canvas back to its white state. The extra layers of priming are also necessary if I use steel wool or fine sandpaper to obtain values or textures.

There seems to be no end of fascinating effects possible with this transparent monochrome approach. It can be as bold or delicate as you choose. It is a superb way to learn how to draw with paint, and a splendid introduction to color temperature. It's fun too.

The rendering itself is a s traightforward process of brushing on the clark values and wiping awaypalHli to get the li~hL values, The lights can be wiped away with almost u:nyt:h.i.ng-a clean brush .. rags, paper towels 01" tissues, fingers, Q",ljps, various grades of steel \\001. and sa]]dp~pcr-l;,\ h~b~JtC:wr docs lile jab. Cleennirpcnttae, mineral spirits, and acetone (occO]siQn~d~)') will make the ~~.lpLng more d10c!.i\·~, but they n1US~ be used .~p,m·tJg~r. They arc extremely dilT:ic!.ll~. to manipulate, and it is easy to inadvertently min thing«, ] U~~ solvents enlywhen T .~ppiy my initial washes, or ifthere me no other mean S ~o expos c the pure white of the canvas (as when I need a h ighlight). A filer I have' used a ~ClI vent, Iwan St''ii. 'e r~ I minutes fm ]1 [0 evaporate entirely, or blot (not wipe) the area carefully v. ith an absorbent towel before resumieg \.~.·ork. Play ~{ s:.life and u se dry rnet ho tb to add or remove: pai [It before J~~nrllng to !-.oh ents.

The samecaution llpphc::. tu p'Lutli~~g OJ'i the paint keep u l\/rn:1Y Irorn wt'im.''i.'i'.1 n~:i.dth'.ll. ":-'OlJPy" pa~nl pigmenl thinned with medium 011" ~ol\'e~]t-is eifficult ro cOl1tJiIJiI. lfirt do~s happel'll to 11,lI1d in the right place, it h, tricky ro make theedges behave when neighboring paint is applied, Therefore, [0 maintain eonrrcl in the critical drawing areas. I use my pigment 111'1 the ,'i4:lme consistency as it comes from ~h·e- tube rather than thinning itIf l want iI! (11J~d look. 1 can ~ightLy brush overthe desired area once [and once only) wid. a soft sable or badge]" brush moistened very lightly with paiuting medium. I r th~tr:!liils, .~ s[JI.~sfiichny look of uunspurent wash GO'II.II be dlJJP~ic<ltcd by ::it:umbiiil'1g or lighn),' scrubbing thepaint on.

There 1" one catch 10 ~II~ ofl"hi:-.. It is possible '110 earry LhL~ methodto the' point where the block-in resemales ~~Imge vintage photograph, This in itself is Plot necessarily {I problem, bulufi"l jl~ roo detailed and. "tight." [here might be a

rel uctance to p 11.1 n l over ].~ in a. fmc and .~oosc nUllllficl.'-] n .a "painterly' ,\\.7IIy. ~ I use the word pai« rerl}' to mean IJ n::n 'W'(1. ~ a sty le of paint applicati OIl characteri zed 'by n O\~ i ng: imJUH'w~ bru shstrokcs-c-wacrc Ute qualities of paint itself are essemial 10 n~c h'l1p<'lC't ~f a picture-=thc OpPO~]!!c of "!igl'lt") The i.l1dll!1uti.tln rna} be W ovcrpaint l~midl)' f<:J..IIin~ into ihe mi . stake of trying; 10 preserve the lines underneath Wh~'I1 [his; p:r~ssure" develops r try to remember who is cnlljng she shots, I tlm.r l neve]' allow myself ~() ima!;il'l~ thul a p:a i iii ling or my sulbjeC:I is furcing meto do what T do, A iXJil1ting 10; an il1J<lnillmate object. I havea brain, So do you.

Such pjt.fa~b need not become problems ifI keep in mind at the start of the b]ock-in that its j)urpo),e- is to guide me, and [hall can render it accurately ,,~i[hu:ml geUtllg ~o CQrnplicawd and intricate rhat it becomes consrriering. Even if It docs, I can always reverse the :r~f.}C·~t-.s. I. am nlways [I:] charscl .1 can do or lit'ido ~lfIylh]ng, which is \""hy 1 like oil paint, OD1~ of ]~"i many <](h'<ml~ge~ is thnt mistnkes need IiIfH he permanent n has a built-in safety factor, ~o'lh~ng i9. eH~r unfi'Hbhlt:. The worst possible blunder can be undone. A careful swipe 'iN"i~h my pa~el'le knife will erase my WO]'5( sins.

1 can go back "rid change my squeaky little lines infO whatever 1 wish, I Gin also paint over themwithout mjs~]v:i.ngs.--whkh makes the best sense since that is my intention in the i'nr,')[ pI3CC. The sole pmposc OfllfiY preliminary \\01:1. [ do {,' ork 111;]1 will I ~ kcll~ be ,m ere d by c nsu i ng pai D1~"). U s to h elp me [nih e COlIU"SC of fi n ish ing b)' prov i di ng information <I'biJut i,-/n.','e things. wiU go. how 1 ighl or dark rhose lhin,g:. will he. and what their shapes and colors are, Once ] know thC8€ things, the 'reid is merrymaking:

8 from the ltalian bruH)I----('xcclienl.


"MOLLY" Oil 8" x 12"

"MOLLY" is another example of a transparent monochrome oil painting. It was done from a photo, of course. No child, not even my perfect angels, could hold this pose for more than a few seconds. I added a touch of Yellow Ochre Light to the Terra Rosa for this one to warm things up a bit. I must mention that care must be taken to keep the yellow out of the light areas. Excessive yellow in the skin tones, even in an Oriental model, gives the subject a slightly diseased look. The safest way to render this combination of colors is to do the entire picture in the cooler Terra Rosa or Venetian Red first, and then add the Yellow Ochre/Terra Rosa mixture to the darks, which is what J did here.

As a mote of historical interest, it is ''Iowan mentioning that this usc of a .rUlny~dlc'l,'d.upl.:l.J monochrome undcrpaimm]; bas countless variations dml. reach back m time, mainly in U11'(.1p':UIl r~aiHling. ~hough n ,I Hi:'i1lrly :1 ... far ::IS the Line and I\fass method. The monechrcmc bll 'lk-in grc\\ out of the uandard glazing techniquevpredating the introduction ofoil paim some 600 llo!.m. ago. The glazingprecess. like our monochrome \\1'18[1. lIl~SO employs. a painting-under-a-painting sy tern. but 1v reverses the sequence.Jnstead of opaque paint o, .. er rransparem, glazing is nansparem over opaque. The ::.im.i]arily.

however, ends right there.

III case you are ever tempted '10 rry gtazing. it i~ ' .... orth nlJling Lhal fe)f pure iflllC!"l'uinabk tediousness, nCllhing beals it he p.l\.l\:cdu'l.it,;' b(!gin~ with a careful line dnl"\'inS' Over thar, <I c· mpte~e monochrome paillting is done ""jtll opaque I:lainl. usually emr]oring a cool black as. the base color, plu. white. [The result is a deathly photographic effect.) When the painting is dWirough[y dry .. color i Introduced by ih . epplication of sucee: ivc layers of transpareut paint fibn~ tglazes) umil the desired color. arc reached, U the drying times between glazes are h.llmpe<d together, the process multi add. up '10 many momhs or even years for '1.1I~' COl11pkll011 or one puinltng. Meunwhlle, the subject, not h:l' 'TI~nliOlllhc inspirutiun, could d~'} up and b~m'" '1'I.:V<I.). Smn.du)\)/,~ tl1o!:Hlgl1 .• the masters of'thi . technique gave us some 'briUiat·1Jt treasures.

). TR


Often \ .... ·hen 1 do a monochrome block-in as rn have just described, the effect is so pleas ing thm it seems 3J shame [0 make the delicate rendering disappear under heavy layers ofopaque p3Jinl. even 'lho'LIgh th;:'l1 \I!'l~ l\tr.: origlm~1 inlentiull. Oil. p .... inungs done transparently ha\ c u quality unmatched by oth~r lI"3lU1.:-.pal'~gH mediums, n they :::In!' done with authority. they can more than Soland on Ihcnr own, even when done as 3i block-in. Therefore, since I am the artisr. m can do anything! decide is beSot-including changing my mind. I sometimes waive my ori.gma] idea and develop my painring as a purely transparent renderi ng,

I)urin,g ihenme I was first experimeming with this technique, l \'\. S abo work ing '" nh CIJn1'~ crayon, ,~y dr:,'lxl" ing .. were done on P'3PC'f 01: gcsso pamlcll> as tunal studies rather tban linear renderings. I used solvents sueh as water, ncetonc, and de natured alcohol to flus,1i l~~ cruyon dust around as if it W\!1f~' paint. However, Conle h.i:ld certain inherent ditficuhies, mainly with er.l .... ure, that oil pIJinting did not have, so it \-\~a:-;11t l,ong before I was tr;ying [0 imitate the effccn ofCOIue \'!IHh oi] paint, Tine paint won (Jut and 'tr:llJlrIsparem monochrome as a form or 'I1ni hed art is now a familiar part of nl) repertoire,

The procedure itself is identical with the transparent monochrome block-Ill discussed above. The difference, of coursevi that I don't pain~ over the transpareru work \\ ill'1I opa jue paint I retain the block-in and C'<lIn)' il funht!r ii" a '11oJinling usclfrarher thanmcreiy a 1\lag.l:' in a painting, J can develop it ~~1 great detai], or keep j] sketchy. or I can brei;lk ;"",,;aj. from the purely rnonochmme state ::lin.d add more color (keeping it transparent of course), until it resembles fuU color. I can ndd opaque whites in the last stages to make' it resemble a gouache painting (or ju [to create .' mphasis )1. and I can g"ive it the added imere t of texture by a light rubbing of sandpaper, C1r steel wool, or knil'i: scraping, There are cudlc;s~ ]}Os~bm'ie~ for obtaining new etlects .. lf I should botch the joe, LI1i:fC i~ al\-"tlIYs rhc reassuring option Ofr!i!~CLIC by painlint; over \vh.h opaque paitu,


"ASPEN GROVE" Oil 22" x 28"

The impressionistic block-in (left) for this painting is shown slightly beyond the beginning stage. You can see that the upper portion of the group of aspens at left are beginning to receive some serious attention. My goal in this work was to convey the intense blue-green harmony of the forest, and the initial application of those colors is still manifest. They were brushed on as transparent oil paint (thinned with turpentine), but in color instead of monochrome. Notice that the temperature relationship within the painting (cool lights, warmer darks) has also been established in the block-in.

I like to work this way whenever a subject has an emphatic harmony that I wish to focus on. Starting out with a full color wash is a way of having my painting sing on key, so to speak, from the beginning. The rest of the painting was a matter of working out the details of drawing, edges, and final value accents.

For me. the e simple paintings seem (0 work best 1170r living subjects or .anyfhililg el e V!hich im oh.'esin'leresto[lg dra\\ ing epportuniue and. subtle roaaluy (mduding our flora VlIDd fauna cbumsj .. heintimate quality of tnmspareut monochrome i!-. perfect fur r~nul.!'l·intl fWgun: drawing and ponrait studies, n lUi'll. because the onte pigments ~D clos~l} resemble actual HCSih '!( nes, but abo because they dupl icate the temperature r,r.:hutionsillp of north dlayliglu-\'i". rrn darks, and cool lights, I have had little luck applying rhi technique to vsccnic' subjects such as landscape, where aerial perspective and atl1l{Dsphe.r,e: are impolfUlfiL Monochrome eemsvery limited in eapmring effects 'CIUlS,cd b~ complex color changes.

I slr1cHlgly recommend thit;, way or working fer anyone \\ ho 11L.!'~ds. more rami I:iarity with manipuleemg uiJ paint \\lith 'l nly ene color to worry .ihout (and rIO mix.ing). you CJn conccmrae 01111 It:'<li'ning what a brush CJn do LInd how to wi c'1!d it expertly, Wdlloul the disrraction of color. you will learn itt faster. and YOli will become more aware iQf the !,jmpl,e value ' trucmresin your ubjecr, Itis an efficient ",,'j}} to sharpen your drawing ability for when you do tackle fun color,


Thus approach became popular during [he nine of l11~ French I mpressicrrisrs and remains .. favorirc wirh nnisi» ~O(h:Jy. Landscape painrers purticularly favor j~ becanse 'it lends ]1 .. elf so well when I~:ghr all1d color :Jiro 1he main ~oall!';, It us ~he 01051 unstruetured of the \"illlys I start a painting-erather like chasing a rninhow-blLU it calli definitely lead ro brilliant effects.

The !i'lralcg~ is. [IJ create ;:I. color sketch of a ::,ubject emphasizing th,e evcrall OIOf harmony, while avcidmg any definite rcmmiuncnt to exact sht~pCiS. edges, ami darker" alues, unti I s.oll'tc1hing fl!scmbli'l1g a \ !.!II')' 100 e Imprl.!!ls'ioni!!.l r. iming is arri, cd 3iI.When a ha7;) image of the subject hegins to appear .. the ath:llliolll lo speci fie element it> usually developed bit by bit into sharper focus. almost fHi, if someone 0]' something were emerging from .:1 fog.

The process typically begins 'il uh all extravagant jumble of colors applied over the entire canvas. There is no immediate aHilDelllllp1 at drawing ehe ~uhjec~ other than a fell'!' lines [0 uulicate larger forms, Because of lh[. seemingly random aeeumulntion or pa~m1!t, there is oJlcon no di\ iding ~ inc between the ~t[lSIl!S or u waf~_ The block-in may have no discernible c:ondu!'iml as it mcrg~~ i nto final painfiBlg. The aecumulmion of bil:!o of' colermny 'be 50 gradtHlI tha the \\'ho~c ,raintillg appears to b~ a o,;ingk flow from first stroke to signature. A naive ob CITeI!' watching the progress of such 31 pil:tlJre miCilt wonder when the serious painting wlU begin.

In most CLI. 1.:5, this way ,I) u!orlill,g' is used because the effect of light and [he anendant colors are the sole objectives (as they WCj1~ for l\"'l.H:'hlllu.n m'l.ti "'lon~t). Aller the CU~UT sttU(;nll"]lJ'l has bl:C'lru made, there 1ll;J))I be no IPO]ID1 ingoing on. lndced, there is a heliefthut 'the addition of exact dran'ing or more values wil) destroy the lui lliaucc of a CO~OI" effect,

] don't :1Ig]"~~ with that entirely. I like vivid colnr, and I think it is possible 10 retain it regardless cf rhe extent to which a wOll'k is developed provided or course, it i done wit" virtuosity ((:'(III1~Lde[' SOliL1Ha). While I am as captivated as anyone by the stunning works of (he ~mplreSSionlst~, 1 see no reason to confine color '[0 ali imp~ti .. ioni -tic ~edmique. The

\ isual world 11!:L'" many cttb~r fcantres nuhm: herself I' fiUed wnh pn'::CJ~C drawmg and edges end values and still manages I'll .J.Iliialc more color than any of us ean handle, I.!\ en the Imprc~~;unlSb"

56 AHA f'I?HfA'

For that reason I regard this broken C'010.1' system of starting not only as an end ill itself, bUI also us a meuns [0 an i!nd, II is an ideal method when the subject is ~o l~i\ ~dcJ irun "mall bib lint I cunner resolve ]t Irno implemasses .IS Ifl land ape painting when ,. am c n fronted with a bewiid~r'ins amount of d;ffercn1 colors. \,forem er, here i. an obvious advantage \vi~h an impressionistic block-in when the edge,' on my subject arc indistinct or blurred, OJ do 1101 lend

them elves to dear outhlll,e,

ln m} usual version of tbis block-in, asin the others, i. aru usuatly guided. by nh!;;': '!.,;~,HI\ iction that aJdl0ugh drawing is no ~ubSI,ituh.' for sound ]lahltmg, it c~rl<3i;n~yis ,[:I pn.'''l''ljU;.:l'i'l· .. FOI: '~h.lt. reason, ~ lrj to c~'lab:~ish the important dm"',:1ng: features after brushing on aturpentine wash ()f me dorninnnt colur the' color "key" that \\ ill be the h'15;is of the harmony or my painting. ~. do the drawi trig fl.. accurately as I C'IIl. without getting involv ed in minor detail, arid ~layul1E! with pure colors alone.

AccUI'3Jt'e dra\\'ing normally involve. adjustmems to achieve de ired edge. and thai can cause an madvcrtcnt intermjxing of colors on the canva . Extra caution i" needed then to keep colors "clean" (A clean color is one what d~ar'ly belongs to either the red, blue, ) ~lIowj On1ngc; green, or violet Jamilies.)

lt IS. only when the critical drawing r~lrl i:s \'1 ~lI-~'s~.lbl,i~hC'd nlO.'J'1 I can relax and dec ide how m~my IOf my nnndeseript ~nibal strokes of eolor I wish 'to change into !'Ccognl;?{Iblt: "Iings in m~ subject, and which to leave as they are, ~I'l orher wards, J reach a point where I have: to ask myself ifmy painting would be rmproved in any way b~' making: those dabs of color look like something other than just paint, Unfenunately (0.1" perhaps fornmately), there is no straightanswer. This is one of those "Art" purls or painting a judgment call with no rationale beyond an inward "gut" response about what looks i'i~l1l. J can't say how '10 choose the righi path 'II' follow, but l masi tcll you th·lt J have created :;.om,t: medic re painting» by mIt litcning ito my whimsical impulses,

A_ you may have already concluded the tentative nature ofthi-: 311rroach means [hat the likelihood of drawing errors is very high, With only little fragments of color on yom canva • you calJ'l't rt:a~~y ten e: .. acr~~' where anytbing is, how b]g it is, or if it is the right shape all [he fhiI1g~ a blo k-m should tell you! Of course .. if you are only uueresred in color, m:1I11.: or that maucrs .. However, if i,!. JOt'., matter, und you '~lU!li'lt ynm work II(D be welf-drawu, this mcihud dCU1r'1tUldl~ cxun Ct~II1I!' ~~II1U considerable ability [0 ~ illlllJli"n: yuur :-'UbjJ.;Cl 'VI nhin the impressionist move,

You C<1I1'11 do that easily b)' measuring for the key points on your subject andmaking marks of some kind 011 the caava to give yourself at least the more important references, Obviou ly yourpainting probabl will require some

r working before everything en Is up \\~len'!' if belongs. (\\'hich is \\"hy matly ot the' Jmpressionisne paintings appear so labored when v'icwcd LliP close.j You need 'lO be \!:-,p~l:jany . ureful when your :-.uhjof..:d ... are people. bccau c errors in dirdvdng can make your wcrk Inuk ahsurd, In hmlscapl: p.:tintol1g t~lollgh. you cat'll get a~'I,!a} with almost anything (11:'10\ ided !llO one decide" to go out and compare it to the acn ua l subjec]:

All of th i s as id e, [he 'p e rsi sten l pro hie m rhroughour every stage of th i so type of painting i So to eon tinually retai 11 l'ne freshness 0 f color that wa s establ [shed at the start Co.lOf' <I fier an, is 'the pri 111'1 reason for choosing thi s metho d In the first. place. In UllY experience .. retaining dean color until the very em! h. the hardest taskin painring. Sometimes the- arrcnnncau pr ducca d~lnling cmbarr . smcnt but when it work ,1'1 HE. ILl,}' works!

"OCTOBER MORNING" Oil 24" x 30"


"WILLOWS "-Start

.. WiLLOWS" Oil 24" x 48"

"WILLOWS" was first done as a small study from life and subsequently enlarged to this size as a studio painting. My task in this larger version was to retain the freshness of the color sketch. The block-in is a full color rendering using both transparent and opaque paint thinned with mineral spirits. In the finished version, I ended up with quite a bit more detail than I wanted. The block-in seems stronger for that reason (and it is closer to my original color sketch). I mention this not as an apology (it's still a nice painting), but to point out how very fragile that thing is that we capture in painting from life .



I prefer this and the following starting method because both are ways to practically finish a painting from the start.

If I am careful, there will be very little correcting or overpainting of my initial work. All I need to get started is a tone applied as a wash over my canvas-usually a subdued shade of the general color harmony of the subject-then I can lay on the correct colors and values of the larger masses immediately. There is no trying this or that or fooling with approximations. I select a prominent shape and paint it as correctly and as completely as I can with its true value, color, and edges. An adjoining shape is done in the same way, then the one that borders those two, and so on until all the remaining major shapes have been painted with their appropriate edges. If all goes well, if! manage to sustain my effort without a major blunder, the result will be a full color block-in, true to the subject in every respect except minor details. That, at least, is my hope.

The only concession to approximation I make is to sometimes (but not always) hold back on the thickness of my paint. Generally, I use my pigments spread thinly at first, using larger flat bristle brushes. Then when the block-in is finished, it is easy for me to go in and apply paint of any desired thickness (within reason) to achieve my textural effects. By keeping my paint to a minimum at first, I wil1 have a choice of making those effects either very complex or quite simple. In working out the fine points, however, I have to be wary of losing the strength of the simple masses of the block-in. To prevent this, 1 must always ask myself if it is clearly necessary to divide those large shapes. If not, I leave

them alone. If I decide that subdividing or developing detail is essential, I make every effort to do so without altering the overall value of the area. Maintaining the one original value of the simple masses is the key to keeping them strong. Excessive modeling with value changes in the lights and shadows will undermine the design structure in any painting. 1 use color changes instead.

A view overlooking the Bristol. Channel and the Irish Sea-painted in 1992 during a trip through Devon in southern England. I had to contend with bright sunlight on my canvas and palette, which caused me to mix my colors a bit darker, and that resulted in this somewhat more mellow sunlight effect.

"LYNMOUTH BAY" Oil 12" x 20"



"EXETER COTTAGE "-Half finished

In this painting I bypassed most of the customary preliminaries and started blockingin immediately with accurate drawing, color, values, and edges (but not necessarily small detail). The mist of England's serene Devon countryside provided me with ready-made soft edges. The clear white value of the house in the center made a perfect pattern for my design, and the architectural features of the structure gave me the classic shapes (drawing elements) and simple values that I needed. The cottage

in that misty field presented itself as a perfect picture waiting to be painted.

There was very little I had to figure out or change. I began in the center with the larger shapes of the building, and worked outwards, finishing as I went along. I realize now that I should have quit sooner than I did. In fact, if I had to do it over again, I would probably render the foreground with less detail.

One of the most frustrating, but genuine truths I have learned in my 50 years at painting is this-that beyond a given point, usually just past the block-in, most additional work tends to weaken the strength of my painting. That clear fact argues soundly for getting it right at the start.


"EXETER COTTAGE" Oil 24" x 40"

The only difference between this and the following method is that here I am concerned at the start with the larger shapes of the subject at the beginning, while in the next I go after everything including detail. Both of these very direct approaches are vulnerable to error, because there is little preliminary work to rely upon. I must be very careful with each stroke I apply, because the next one depends on its accuracy. Obviously this way of starting will not do for large complex compositions. It works only when the subject is relatively simple-something that can be easily visualized and requires minimum preliminary work.


"PANSIES"-Step one

"PANSIES"-Step two

"PANSIES" Oil 12" x 24" Note in these three steps how little the initial applications of paint change from start to finish.



I did not learn this one in school. Like most students, I was taught various effective ways to approach my subject that would allow me to deal with the intricacies of a subject in digestible steps. Tackling everything at one time was

. assumed to be asking for trouble. A number of years ago I asked myself why. Why was it necessary to paint something almost right-and then correct it? I wondered why I had to wait for the subsequent stages of a painting to deal with all the elements in the subject? Why couldn't the first strokes of a painting be correct in drawing and complete, with edges, value, and color, and be identical with what I saw on my subject? Why couldn't the second stroke also be like that? And the third? And so on.

The answer was-no reason at all! If J could see the colors and shapes of a subject well-enough to correct them, then I could also get them right the first time .. and thus eliminate the almost-right stage! AlII had to do was be very picky about how I looked at my subject, and what went on my canvas.

So now whenever it is possible, I try to paint each little shape on my subject as carefully as I can from the start. I do it in as finished a way as possible, and I use each correct color shape to guide me in painting all adjoining shapes. I build my picture in this way from a single accurate point, painting outward from that center, until I have the painting I want before me. After that, it is a matter of pulling the whole thing together-mopping up so to speak-softening edges here and there, scrutinizing it for drawing errors (most often mistakes in alignment), eliminating unnecessary value changes, and checking the overall design for simplicity. Then I'm done.

This is a detail of the central portion of a nearly life-size painting. The scene included a sofa, chairs, windows, flowers, and many other objects. Rather than blocking-in everything at the start, I began with an almost finished rendering of Nancy, and then added the surrounding elements as I came to them. My work was made easier because I had done a small color sketch beforehand.

"NANCY" Oil 32" x 44" (Detail)


"RUSSIAN DOLL "-Step one

"RUSSIAN DOLL "-Step three


"RUSSIAN DOLL"-Step four


This way of working cannot be done casually. It calls for the utmost in concentration, but it is definitely worth the effort, or at the very least, it is something to shoot for. It is hard to exaggerate the advantages of having a variety of starting techniques at your disposal. Unquestionably, a flexible response to the demands of subject matter and conditions is better than having a single individualistic style of working, however satisfying that may be to the ego. Fidelity to your perception of a subject is the whole point of working from life. You ought to paint what you see. Real life, whether it's a landscape, or a person, or still life, presents an incomparable visual banquet, and capturing it faithfully the way you see it can be a stunning experience. To diminish that by subordinating it to a safe and set routine that everyone can recognize as yours makes no sense, and it's no fun either.


"BARANOF FALLS" (Alaska) Oil 24" x 48"

"BARANOF FALLS" evolved from several smaller paintings done on location in southeast Alaska. I have done larger landscapes from life, mostly when I was younger, stronger, and innocently fearless. However, rain, wind, cold, and the possibility of being eaten, persuaded me to paint something small, quickly, and get the hell back on the boat. The presence of large nasty grizzly bears in the neighborhood had a way of focusing my attention to essentials-getting the important colors correctly so that I could do this painting in my studio. This rendering is far more detailed than I normally do in the field, but that tends to happen when there is unlimited working time. The way to get around this is simply to set the same time limit in my studio as I would have working from life, and perhaps hire someone to put on a bear costume and spray me with cold water as I paint.


tJ P [0 this pei nt, In}' c,(]m..!lru~nts ball, e 'been ])1,0:';[ Iy about the teehn ica I aspect ... , of s ttarli n g-h ow the visua 1 problems in a _~lI.Ibj~cl are lJngibly !~~I1L:~i\'cd and wlIys '10 approach them, AU ofthat ls \icry necessar, of course. but bcfol'l.; "}\11" Gall h..-Jppen you must answer the mo);,1 IIlInd.~mcn1al question in starting:


r. b'l, i rig the ;]tIiS\"I.'~~' I,n th i s. i s ~:'i~Cl'1t i ul. Pa ~ nt i ng, a fl~~' ,] ll, i ~~1 't ~ i ke 11l0U'11W! i n cI i mb U Il~, You don't do il j us I bcc~m.!.; l! she subject ~ .. thar!, The begi'l1ni 11I,g is the lim~ when YOLI "lll(,m~d bring to full !;I!w;;In;mess }'OUlfp~TGepliQ!1:!' and feelings ~OW3Jrd the subject and then make It]P your mind. abour what youintend [0 convey

h mightbe a certain color effect, or atmospheric mood or a facia! expression, .~l might he scmethingmternally cvocm:i, e, such us a memory, or emotion, 0[' ::,o(1l'lelifling philosophical Of spirituel, It 'could be a social message, or even (God forbid) political or finand.aL h i~ yO!LW choice and }'O~I, must make it.

Wh::lih~''!,'~r it ir-nail it! fix it in your mind as rll'le ene thins above ;~JI else that IiIfllllst be captured. J said earlier lha~ this doesn '1 come in paint tubes, aad that ~s rrue, but yourpoetic destinasion must hover over your purely ufchllk(1i efforts like a naggung guardian angel, prodding YOll LO DOl forgerthe song you sre singing, Use you.r vision to SC1UP your subject, or cheese nll'1l~[J.g'~' peirus, and then guide the cmpha. .. is in your \l,m;k so l~n1 ynll.l!1' idC'i.l'COm~s~ltrough dearly and urrrnisurkably from ymn heart, Within the hounds of fidel utry [0 the sub.ic(:~. ~h'Cl1e us' endless ~iJ!timdc for self-expression in accomplishing that,

Even when YOll! have no choice' about rhe subject if you arc a srudentin an art class, far example, and the insttuetor picks the model end :sct~ the pose, there .u~ richness to be found because j~ rests nut ;/1 ~Ile :!.UbjfN.:t but in the ,!;\'ay YCU f_'_'J[lNN'i(!1U.·(_' youII' subject, Sun_'l} there "''Ii, in .Ilv,'ays 'br.: !wmdhirJg in you that responds rn a human V.I.))' something thtl~. resonates with the <;;lubjecl (even ifitis m:,smi\ e). look within yourself and find out what it is, (If yeu draw a blank, check to ~eeif you are :!'1l]U brearhing.:

Remerlllbcr-you and your mind arc ultimaaely the real subiect of your an regardless of what you paint!

There' is a popular notion ll101I artists arc burn wwlh :111 alb~hty to d <J\'V. but that iSlfl true. The impulse to draw is there, but no one' arrives ill this world endowed with the capacity 10 gmphicil1Jy depict visual reality, ~ have never known or a painter who was just "naturally" good at it and c()"uld do it without serious training,' Drawing isa "k1U that must De' learned. but [~: isn't like swimming orriding a bike, Once yell get '[he knack of it, you can 't relax and just let it happen by .ltseIf. h tskes constant pmc[~ce and presence of mind, \Vh),:) Because j'l .b. mol a phy~]cal !'.km, ir ts a mental discipline, It deal ' with continual variables rasher ~11 ... n the repetition or m~mornL~d ~Irlap!!s, l alway have the fond hope th. 'l someday it will gel easier. bur it never doc •. Sound draw ing ah .. aj/" demands great cure '!"ighl don n to the lust dub in , painting.


for m st of us. the word "drnv ing" brings '10 mind an outline or something, This deeply ingrained • ssumption orilginah~s. in ch ildhood \,~ hen "''v'CO learned (0 usclines 10 make pictures, Yel ]]'1 real Ii fe thC"r~ nrc l'10 lines around things, Line drawi fa g 1:.. 011 ~y a represen tali on or d i :,1 graml of ell II vi S ua I world. Pai ntiIJ]g, em lh c other h and I the kin d r a 111 dea I i 11 g \\'i th here). attempts to create an illusion of that world, 2 Consequently, in this diSCIJ~S~~ln when I use' the word "drnlving:" [ mC:JItI the size. shape, am) anrmgemenr ofall [the pfllches or calor that collectively make things look the way they do land which abo constiune a painting). \\"hen you render tho 'C patches rhe dglu size, tbe right shape, and with their disuncure edges uml c{ lor. your painting will look lik!.! ymlf 'ubje 'I. If )OLI don't it \'\on·~. It '" in 10010.. different. hercforc, Luse the words dm\'ving anti pai nting to mean the 8(11IIl' thing,


It shouldn't be. After all, ul'a\,!.'ing is simply mea uring, As it applies ro Dirlt'C'1 painting front life, draf\,ing comes downto nothing 11101"C' than tigunng out the width and hcilghr of'color d]npc'> ~I'[d li'u.:n nUim]g_ them together, S1ill. lIr:l\'I.'iI1G remains very diffieuu lor nearly €'\rcry!DHC, which :i:;: odd when yt~U think ~lbolJl1t because drn",,\ ing is the (brilly 'ri~ual clement 'we work with that seems 10 deal \ 1th a mea urable and definable aspect ofjhe visible world, The other three elements; color; value, and edges. are n,?hl'live qualities ·"vith generou mom for interpret. tion. Dra~. ing i about pecijic dimeniOI1- .

. 1 r a nos", in your palming is "om 0 drawmg," il is either [I) bwg 101)0 small, till! \\ long shape. or it de e n "( [( correctly with the other facial fl.!31tm~s_ All OfUlOSC arc measurable qu litics, an.tl C\,CIlIlOIHll1nSh.lmmv h !\\ to 1J:,;'I!;1! I'U~,C'I".

I As a. kid growing l!1~ dm1illg \\'orld \'I,.'ar ll. I remember n'} inti ill vain to draw pieum .... lo. of Japanese fighter plane . bUI ~mlf}', their ..... ing~

always rumed om looking lu~C' ])lIInbo'~ ears,

! Line drJ1l'li~ll!! h~' I .... idfl~ :J. ~,,:p.lrUIt: art rOI'H'I ... dl.h gl'l.!.1l C"'Jln;~"I''C ('I(l\', .. .:r l do MI mean to di~mb~ II a~ ~cinJ,! ill dll~ \V',~.~' Ifll~flnl" 1(1

pall'iI~I'i~~ M}- rmim OTI the [ext t~ thai the\vonJ "drawing' as ~I applie re r[Llnl~n~ fl'fcr;. 'to the dinnrm" .. icm<; ami relarioaship- of elemenrs iil ::I rendenng.no, (u Lhl" an of linear l'eprt'.'.t:fll::JitI(m_,\11 terms of an h H~ (heir :.l:rengrJu,lnJ hml.llIlim1!>. Om: L:. net better than another, but each does Cl.:rulni~ Ihii1j,I~ h.:IICI' Ihan ;my other,

Careful drawing need not result in "tight" or excessively detailed work. On the contrary. As this little painting shows, drawing well gives me freedom to play with interesting brushwork as much as I please. Control through fine drawing is the key. "Looseness," as I am fond of pointing out, should be the way a painting appears, not how it is accomplished.

"GiRL iN A WHiTE DRESS" Oil 16"x 12"


Men are easy to paint, especially men who have beards, rugged features, and angularity of facial structure. Such things are not only easy to grasp (and therefore easy to get right, but they lend themselves to bold brushstrokes, which are always nice.

The other thing about beards

(and hats or other coverings) is that they hide some of the hard parts .. In painting a head, I have always found the line of the jaw, the mouth, and the chin to be the most troublesome anatomical features. Eyes and noses are no problem for me because they have so many easy-to-see shapes .. Also, there is no movement in the nose, and very little in eyes.

Contrary to popular belief, it is the mouth, not the eyes, that conveys the majority of facial expression, which is why the slightest error in painting a

a mouth can cause my result to look ridiculous. The jaw and chin are tricky because their forms are so subtle and abstract. A beard and mustache neatly veils all of these sensitive areas. All of that hair also provides opportunities for interesting edges. Note also in this head study that there are two distinct light sources-a warm one on the model's left, and a cool one on his right.

You 'I\'oLdJ lbiJflk.th",r~rorc, lhl.1l[ dra\'I,dng could be nailed U!u\,!,'n ~xacl]y, thal ~.l \'\,1(1,,,116 be almost mathematical. blliUl as we ull know it doesn't quite work out Ihal way. Th~or'~lut;l1l1y ~t '1(,i1sl~ OIU ~hin!:ls visible .u \'-'\i!!11 [I." many that arc' invisible (empty 5.llJCC'. for example] can be measured with precision.well. almost e\r~'D"l,thin,g. fog and mist, whirnpcd cream, flying birds. sqairmy little children, crushing waves, and otber such things om! 11 hit hard to pin ,dO\'1l1_ On the other hand, trees, mountains, grown-up people who !>i'[ :S1i.1I, and potted plants all have very definite sizes and. shapes '[hal present us with :rn~<l\our~bl~ dim.JtIH1.L(l'tliS -bll~ WI! s'~.m 'Iniss she mark.

Let me ussume (lhiy,othl:]ic~!~IIY of course) lhat lhave difficulty with drawimlg rny picturcs are coming '~HIl crooked and ;alllll.mny looking. and myportraits look like llC'opIe who have had '~enible hcadinj u tries, \:\I'h) can't 1 gel my drawirlig right? Am ] blind [0 my mistakes or what'! Certa~.nlly. when T looked l,[I~Q my bathroom mirror [his. rnorningI could tell ifwy no SJ8 waslonger ~ han it" 'as yesterday, or if my eyes were more lopsided than usual 0lJ' if my ea rswere all stra i ,gin! Yes, of course I could! ~f n1.~ eye was even a millimeter askew 1 'eI, notice and be off in a panic tn the emergency room, \~ hy then did I Ilot CHIch these similac cn"l"OI'S in that last portrait .1 attempted?

The reason has to do with more than tny f~it"llIiari'l}' w]~h nly own fearures bec;;IUSC I wuuld probablymake the s-ame blunders if I tried a self-portrait. So what as the' problem? \\11)'. if almost every shape can be measured, is drawing &0 tricky'? \\rhy can some people see that their picture IS "out of drawing," bm cannot see where the mistakes are? Why arc others not 1::"\ en {.,I Hun" that the ir dLrn'llid ng is wumg thatit does 11>\) ~ ~'1 .. en .Iook Ii ke their ~ u bject?

TI-lF PRO B. U=': \,1

To beginwith, I don't have 10 construct m~, face in the mirror eachmorning the ntay T do for a portrait. \1y faceis already tbere-=cernptetc and q u ire handsome too+und I simply recog« i:e it 'I backwards.no I ess ~ _ 1 <:1111 III 01 eonsciou s of lhe sp~d ric rd~~ionl~hip~ and dunensions+the thiegs .~. must figure Gnu from scratch when 1 do a painting. his the job of delc;rmining those e),.act rueasuremeurs and alignments that is so laxing.

One 1rC'.~Dn i~ is hard ro makethese measurements. and then make them fH tog~~her just 5,0. is nlm 1 mustmeasure Ull;! slrl~~pt''' ~f cclor (:Ilim make lJJflrttly features I'ather t11:::I'I1I the features themselves. To make matters wcrse, those shapes. change wlvhllle ligM and aJng1e' of '1:iew, Each time ] do a painting, I am dealing \'1'lt1'1 ,1 fresh set of configurations to

untang i e- AS] f all of that were not en ough .. many of the' shapes I sec have' edge s so di ffuse that flgun n gout where each one stops arrd anot he r begi n~ can 0 rtCIll seem i ll'llpO~:. i bit;!:, {h_ u ~n 't, hoVl ever, those .'l0 fttrausltions an: call ed c:d,g~~, amu I di sc uss the In ~[ lc nlg~ hi n Chapte II" :;. ,

Little in 10m early le;:Jrning nnd deye]oprncnl prepares 1!lI~ for this task, Knowledge is wonderful, but some of \~"hat \\'C arc taught can make the job harder because of,:vh~d wemust sm-lear«. ln infancy we rely heavily uponour 'Sense of '[ouch and iioight 10 explain the world around us. At ~hc same time we recei v e names tcr things and are thus categorizing our curious new world .. Ar a certaiu point in middle dl~~dhoodwhen we begin to draw recognizable; things. we separate and delineate them \,I, ulh outlines. Later on in [In schoot.uus pr,c·occlIJKIJiO]l \\ iHI form expressed JS ourlmc :i~ reinforced as we ~carnlo model with shading further i~'I')I(l.ling ebjccts in ~p~'r!.!.

\~'~ an: then taughD. illbolLll b~),ill; fmL1ls-----(;lJJh~s, cylinders spheres, 'human form. foregrounds backgrounds, perspective ~]'II1Id so on. ,Il is all ~cud informaricn IDf COLJn;c Uhe technical (:011: of W~:!>r",m AI'~ until the 17t'11J century]. However, as useful II!' they are, ~U of those studies arc "i,IfIlD~Y \'Va},,,, to sort out the visual world into easily understcod parts.' Itisnt until we get into painting lha~ we finally confront the more sophisticated realities of vision. Ourtask then is, YO restore the original complex web that \VaS so carefully (bSSe!;;ledi. To do dun convincingly we Hll\IS:t deal with the actual information reaching our rerinas+and dUll ws what drawing is. as it applies to painting.

THE V] su ... \ L nEL D

\Vha~ \,VI;' are literally seeing when ou r eye S iBI'I.'e lOp en is a rwo-di men sion al panorama of t he v. orJ d i mmcdiatcly ill front of us, plus ,1). bit of peri ph em I vision. T\'vo slightly different inrened images spaced abour PI"I.U and one halfinches ;:lipan are received on om" retinas, Thoseimages an:' then p:ro()!s~ed in our brain to give us a three-dirnensienal-right-side-ep version of the world, a nd W,!.': do "I~ or that at ne~l:rl.y the speed ef IOghL What ,~ trick! Learning [0 dni\7l' seems like child\ play by comparison [tim ut isn't],

NQrma[1y. as 'II'IJC gaze out across a scenewe automatically separate object'~in cur fidd ofvision from the space around them; then we organize (he whole scene in terms of sizes, shapes, local colorxand distances. The sky is blig and emptythe bam ~s nearer and red and not so big. the cows are 1tulIY and far a~'aY and black and brown. and so on. That is how we arc able to make sc IlSC of the blizzard ofhgbt fTIlgmcfils striking OlU' C)"C.::'. We recognize and ~.d('["[ti fy patterns we an_~ farniliar \~ ~th. and W~' gi\ c them nan1JCS and C'l')~OI'l'l and shapes. ThC'n~ "C pm till of ll1i.:m l.ogclhl:l· and call it a r~nm under a summer :sky. S~eing the world tli1i~ w<liyis a marvelous thing indeed, a triumoh of evolutiorr, vil~a~ 'ID our survivcl, artd great eo have in Los An,geles traffic, bU1 a bit ofa hindrance inpainting from life.

When we paint, we must transform eurtbree-dimensional experience back into two dimensions so 'we can put it on our 1iVI o~ dimensional canvas. Thnl ~:Ju~a:n:!l we must \:]~\\, wh at "t;:' are seei l'1lg "5 a nat ~na:ngemen1 of shapes. :Ii or an ~t),~OI:lmcnt of items ser:m:m~0d fmln one another Ln space. \I\fo must SQI! the uncrloeking anstract ~hap!.:!<; ~hu~. h)g~llhcr rom" recognizable images, H is. the 5~~.liIle 'l:h:ing SC'C1l ~I'II paint-by-number kits or biUboam p<linl.ing.

for example, the .. ky in a ~a.fildscape docs nat continue behind an object. The background is simply II. CO]O:l shape UlaJt stops at the edge ofanother color shape then l-e(ljll1pea'r'S as a llew Shil]Je at the {lPP'05,~[e edge, it may sound s~mplustk to mention somcilung so obvious, but in practice i~ is not so easy ro viewthe poign3l1l1it look in a child's eye\i. as merely fhu patches or en lor" ~ t ~~lI'ilP Iy gee s contrary to ehe e mot ional logic of cxperie nee _ M,o((;O'I. or, i.t is not ~a~ y loidcFlitiry sh.ap~.z. when [hey ha'l.'c ~l'IclislinC'{ ed,!;l(;~ and nlcnd into other shapes Nevertheless, thatis wh(lt !"l!S~ be done, b~c<LUSC 'p"i!uing the 1 lilil'lOCel':lcein a chillers. expression is inr'i]lO!'iM,ible. but painting lhepil'tl~m of calms ~ln<.al ereate the- expression i~.posl>j~ble,

J It ~~ ~n!lllogoiJs to taking ap8:ITiI my comlJ!lIt~rlQ und~T'>~~nrn, 110"''- itworks -.01 se!1~ib]e idea fOT 1~>lflling---b1JJt when the bits and pieces are

spn:Jt! abuut, LhL"Y lIon'j leek like- th.~ computer anym01'C. H I!. l)n~.1 £ljkr I h~w~ 1.":I:.:lJnilli,;'J !h~ 1'I~~rt;,., ll1cl'l r':~~i:n'lbl..:J H~i:fl1I !jilt! LUmI,;'L! H ml, t&oi;1l I can understnnd Ihc "wholencv-" nfih~ mQ.chiI1lO::.

"NUDE" Oil 14" x 18" In a quick study like this, a knowledge of anatomy, particularly proportions, is essential. There is seldom margin for error in figure painting. All the bumps and hollows and appendages must look right. Besides, if a lady is going to be nice enough to remove her clothes and sit for me, the least I can do is paint her splendidly.


lt is hard for me to imagine ~!ly other choice but to draw tho .. c (O]Of fragments and let go of" hat ) know' about wlml they arc, The que lion is how to see the shape. acrurntely and fit them together properly. It took practice. but now I

ee them, • am able 10 paint the hapcs accurately becaus c ] have' diociphned myself to do them one at a lime, ery carefuhy.

I measure the first tiling 1 put down on my canvas an 1111ak , sure it [$; precisely orreet, then ] mC;:i;l!>LLI"II! the next shape and compare il to the first ene. [ dn the third shape Lind d'll.;cl it against dre ~ir~t [WO, then 111t; fourth measured ag.ain~l 'Ill!! lirst three, and I keep dOdn"lg tl.llat until I haH! the cow under Ihl' summer ~ky.

I know it may seem rather tediou .. , and il certainly doesn't have the flair of the' usual :S''1''~lshbudding sketching associated with 5bnin,g a painting, but what it lacks in swagger it makes up for in superb control U all but eliminates laborious correcting and repainting, and thai appeal to me. 1 thmk It is a waste of valuable painting tune to spend it rectifymg whetcould 11U\C been done' rigbt in the nrs[ place.

Q. Hem do I paim my fil'l\l shape exact'!

A. I choose a 'inape that is ea'!'}' 10 grasp 0 l can't miss.

Q, Wl1u;l'll .... h!;lpe.~ are eas,), [0 sec" A. T11i.: obv ious OI'h:S.

Q. ""'l1ic11 ones are chvious?

1\. hapcs that have clear geometry=squares. circle -. lfie<;tanglel'i. triangles. shape with straight line and dear edges, NC. I try [0 use shapes. that also have arong values or colors. CThall[) ''\Iny lht:y are ob'viou .1 L~lIaUy 1 go for a shape thut is clcLldy a 1'il.!L[angk~ or mangle, thal is also \'1.':1) dark, or \ cry ~ighL. and hilS a bright pure color, Those qlm1ili..:!'1 arc cnr.} to sec.

[ do wn'lhillJ.; nee t: ~ sary to ge~ n'I) j Lldgment s ri ght, T someti me ~ go up to tile sub jec [ (i fthcrc is no orhe r way) and physically measure the shape lneed. That only works in painting life-size, 3Jl1d itt is; not a good habit, First, be-cause it is unnecc sary, and second, because' very fen,' (h]ng~ in (I subject can be measured rind still correspond to what I see [rem the peiru ill which 1 am painting. 1 Iinu it much easier to pauu OIDIC element the silt! l want it to be, and then match ever; thing else Un it, III 1.I!n~l)-oc~p.: pmnli!1g then: is 110 other choice. (Remember [ sm refc ring here to workill'lg from life. Painting from Ilholol:';rapi1!-> i'i ahogcther different I

The-"'trick" in·mea';~.1rillg 'hares and intervats L [0, elect one or the other a ' a unit of measure. (Rather than u. 'in!! inehe or memes. OJ relying on memorized proportions.) In doing a head. ~br example. J use the width of an eye. or tile d~~ta.m:~ between 'lite eyes.or ~hl!' width between comer of the mouth. These reatl!J.I'!2~ have clear boundanes or poiurs of beginning and end, \JI"hicll make them cusy to pin dU\lj,'IL Because they ure ,~t:S(l ... hort '~'II1crcmCIH.s.. rn ~1'111 nlUII"C' ~i:kl.~ly to [glo:t them correct than rnfl u..;e' a longer unit of measurement it is easierto judge the distance hetween e} cs than between ears,

Normally, I don't use this much line drawing at the start of painting a head, but the lines, particularly of the hat and face beckoned me. The result at this stage was so pleasing that Nancy (again) made me stop.

This modest sketch is

a constant reminder to me of how, beneath the surfaces of many paintings (and lost unless photographed), lie beautiful stages of the work. Imagine how wonderful it would be to see a Rembrandt or Vermeer in their preliminary stages. It is our good fortune that many have left us their drawings and studies for paintings.


The ourlinc« of contours presenr proIM~I1'hi ror man}' artists, panicularlv in figure Of portrait painting. Here ;j:1'1"~ some .hing" lu think .ilblllltMos'l curves an: rurcly ;'1 ' "CLI["VY" us thl:) rurst appear, ilnd im.:xp~n\.~nc!.!d art i:.iS U!Sollully I.!xaggci"Jle Ihem. f, r example, an m erlY~'l'01iJII'1Id("d cheekbone ilo> tile most common drawing mistake in painting :I head, Another frequent error i~ dr~n,·ing the skull or ()1IJ~lill'ie of the head as OJ single unhroken cUr'!.'€: (il isn't). The wIly [0 gel around curves (pardon the pun. is to think of every curve as a sene); of simiglilline- thar change direction. If you p~lim them with [hat in mind, they will be stronger, more inh!re:-.l]ng, and far more accurate than 3 single nondescript curve',

Firu.ilog the k~y dmn ing. points in a Mlbjcd and then filling the pieces together is not intellecjually demanding, but it does call for patience 3Jl1d discipline. lt if; like !:.lying bricks pluma and level very repetiuous, bui vel')' dellli,llf1,di:ng uf concentration. Using the front view of'a head again as an example: An imaginary line drawn "i1,raigh1 (I,nn,'111 from the inside c mer of the eye will usually just touch the ,vine ofme nostril. A similar Iine dropped from the center of the eye could locate the corner of the' mouth. Using my measuring units then q lilt;' width of an eye, shall we say], :1 only have to judge' [he: d .... umce lIownt~loSl~ ~i"'t:,., to place the nose and meuth In correct relationship 10 the eyes. Likewise, smagiuary horizonral lin s draw n from lh~ nose and eye comers 1.\ III tell me ~xact~y where the cars arc,


uafonunarely; that does nor work if a model moves, Live human beings like (0 breathe. blink. yawn, talk. stretch. and ~\ ~r) Lhing: else \\ hen they PU!H~. I can't sittiH for more than a few minutes so I'm amazed and graietu' thai others are \~ nil i ng;nn endure moduli [IS, ~I~O-,,~ people are able to hold a pose ,,,;d.lI!!I1CDUgh fur my ,'!'a~, of \\'oddng becau c I al\'v;Jy~ cvpcet tlll;:'m 10 move somcwhar. f am (~l .. o vcr nice 10 my Solubjccls, ~ like them brig'ht alert. comfortable, relaxed, ii1nd intere ted in what is happening, J think it is unnatural to s:tay in r'1 fixedposition, so 1 encourage liI1l)" models to take breaks or EIlO'!.,C whenever (he), wish, I. pose them so they wilt feel natural-my only requirement is ithat they be able to return to their posruun if ihey drift off or Lake. break,

To uccommodutelhcir incvtrablc rnm erncnt. ] rely upon contour and center bnc.!'l tn g6ll~dl! rue (I ike the Iautude and longitude lines on a globe}, len I arc rrobab~) ram~]i.:u \\ tth dm\\,~I'iJg books mlHllpkwl"C thl!.;' head a.., an I!g~ with a line dm''dl the' front and back (dividing om imagined face in two lengthwise), Another line is drawn down the sid!;!s, (for the ears), and then severo I horizontal lines ciIT'LJl~']ls"dbing: [he eg~ at the [eve! of eyebrows. eyes. bonom ofthe nose, 311d center or the lips. I find contour lines sueh mi tho e useful, and once I place them I do not change them, They remain as a constant guide and 'I~ .1 reference tu bring a subject buck into posuion .. You calli sec' 1'10\'1,.' impertam it is then to have the fjr~l dung right. nnd how ~h{l'l. in turn, gCflcmh:s other correct d~ml.:n~~,

-I here an: \':JriOlI~ other <;~,"\;tL"mo; for UmWi!lg. bm the practical ones a l1 USe" -01110: method of coordmatcs to cvtablish ~lio,;nll1oinl" dmllh":l1

wnfy Ih~m. U[l~ tlmu Il1g mclhoJ. .. such as l'OIllOLIr d"'''\\lng, gesture drawing, and qUick 5ki:h:hillg. prnbablj ilif\ L" some value <t~ cxcrci es, bw lhe} .11'1.' ftLIL "ji'ii111C'ul'll,,: ~Q the L.11l1i L,f dr.m'ing Lil.li I .. 1.111 Jc.blml; wllh 11~r<..:,


"DOCTOR ROGER" Oil 18" x 24" A portrait of Doctor Roger Lacy, professor of psychiatry at the University of Alabama (and my son-in law). I like to paint him at regular intervals because Roger is fond of changing his appearance from full beard and long hair to this, and everything in between. I'm not sure how his patients handle the transformations, but I find them challenging.


r realize dml what I have j ~I",I described sounds more 1iI"'L: 11 Lgh sehoul geometry than the sl:n~iLi\ I! w;1 or creation. but I don't see ~my way around it. ] mus' measure thing" he-cause drawing uj< very ham for me. I do not have n special ~iIl (hat allows me to do it naturally, Of course. measuring in itself i~ru"t Art any more than scales and chord .. alone are 1us.ic, ]lo"c, CL like those things, sound drawing I~ a technical requisife that must be present before Art (this kind) can. happen. BC':>ith.:~, there t~ [to reusen \\ hy J brushstrokc can't be- done wuh gjdJ~' passion ami still be ehe right length and color! I love throw infl pai 1'1'1 around as much liS } QU. anJ the lil!'.l. thing I want 10 UO us take the fun ou~ of painling_.

The good news i~ I~~at measuring. by itself even the vague luzzy shap '''i. gt!'b eu .. ier with prac: icc, Tile hurd par! i~ getting into. the habit of doing it for every shape you paint. Thot takes real effhrt, but once yOU! acquire il. you \\ ill expcnence a remarkable sense offreedom end control, Nothing 'I1~H seem irnpossihle when you realize {hal you can dnn v I!'xpcrlly-aU you 11:1'0 e liIJi do is gel mtn the babit of measuring VI.!f}' carefully ",11 the lime. That discipline \,,11[ let your brush dance ,lnoU l1y in the same 'I.\'il~ 'lha~ ~ irtuoso bu\,' .. ing teclmique mukes a ". iolin sirlig .. ~

THE PArNlES,"\A't"

You can make it easier if you keep doing the simple. obvious shings first, That way you arc likelv to set them right, and. they willhelp you to make the proper judgments about the more elusive shapes and colors. ReS-1st the urge 10 do the hard iPLLtb fin!. (Thus!.: blLlnry g,my::. and ambiguou, shape with lost edges.) Fer a long urne I had this all backwards! 1 thcuglu cvaetly the opposite 111UI, 1 should gl.:'L the hLln~ stu IT out ef the \'\ ay sn I could relux and ~JlJoy the 1.!.IS) rltings. Sounds Familiar doesn't it? (Rather I ike de .. .., "1"1 after the l1'1ilin course Cl little rl;;U .ml after 1 he tuugh part.)

]I took years before it dawned. on me to use the em}' things to get the liard things to use what is bumu to find what is wlkm . .Hi'n-Lht:' same beautiful idea [hat works ~o \\~H in logic and mathematics, That idea should work far rou [00. Sd~C', s.omcthmg (W.!Iy 10 st'L' ill > ~H.1r subjccl-.JJ srra'iglll line, a square cr ui~]'ig~~. sornerlung you can't !1l]sb,- a nd paint that fill'>il! You art! bound to gel those thing.., right, and )ULI \\ ill be on track unrncdiately Pailulltg Irmn one correct lhlng to another gi\"c!O you apowerfcl comrol m H the pr(lCI.:"';-;;'

Wifh correct fhings on 'your cam; ... ~, rnismkes show lip dearly because (hey siiek 011~' conspicuously amid the

• ccurate work. You can t'a:silJr see then where to make corrections. and the "ri~JiC' stuff already in your picture will tell you how to fix them. Withoul ClIflI"CCl work on your GIIl\ as, you can never determine if what you <are putting down is right Of wrong because t 11..: re [S 11 Ih~flg accurately painted to compare It to,

The momentum ofthis kind ofp"Dn~ing i ... u remarkable experience, and it os \~ iUtirllhe reach of any one with the patience to ;]h1HIY be very very careful,

Im.lgolli.: tl1u.l ynu are .. mOlllnlmfl eumber IlIUJ.lllg )ltlUf '1.','01} lip till: filce of II sheer cliff, lJImJ ),tUlllm"t thmk and mea UH: before each step -or else, noes being eurcfullike thaD m"~L:' diimhilf1f' less excilinJ!:?

I plan to go into drawing techniques such as this in more detail in a future book, but let me describe how this drawing was done. My surface was a 1/4" untempered masonite panel primed with acrylic gesso, applied with a broad flat bristle brush to provide a slight texture. With the panel laying flat, 1 dusted the surface lightly with powdered charcoal, and a bit of sanguine and brown pastel crayon (being very careful not to rub it into the gesso). 1 then placed the panel vertically (upright) on my easel, which allowed the excess pastel and charcoal to fall off. That done, I was ready to start drawing.

The work was done with extra soft charcoal pencils, soft willow charcoal sticks and a variety of sharpened pastel crayons in various red and brown earth colors. The light areas were created with a small kneaded rubber eraser, fine sandpaper, steel wool, and a wet cotton rag-sounds pretty crude, doesn't it?

However, look at the drawing carefully; use a magnifying glass if necessary, and see how delicate the effects are. Note the area at bottom center where I pressed a cutting of dampened lace to the surface. (No, that's not cheating.) Also notice places in the hair and background where I used a bristle brush and water

to both apply and remove pigment.

This drawing was done in 1970 when I was exploring the many possibilities of charcoal and pastel aggregates. Since then, however, I have developed ways to exactly duplicate the appearance of these techniques on a white lead ground using oil paint alone.

"FELICE" Charcoal and Conte 22" x 18" (Detail)


\-\'i-un ;,RF VAlU·' ~

The term "values" refers 10 therange of lightness 31'10, d;lfIlmFo:s~ within a subject. [J~ well a .. IhC' l(U1C~ fromwlrite t(l black in a painting. WiI'rite paint is a light a live can attain in a picture; black or ii, equivalent is the darkest. Most painters employ the familiar grouping of nine values-four in the light with white' as. the lightest four in the dark to 'black. and onein bcrwccn. This is called 'the l'alfIe JJJn!'if.'. This ~egD1l~nlmg of the scale imo nine increments h, practical because more than thai SCC"'~ cumbersome. :lind Ics~ is not enough. In any cuse. no mauer hm\ 1I11.Jny lice iiI,! create. the rang\.! I:> ~l]1I frum while 10 black. Compared to the m'l,n)' values in nature. lI1~ .. e nine aren't much, but they are ;011 we have to \,~'Urk with, so wr.; must usc them (houlJh1'fllUy.1


B~~ use we have so ~-;':VI.' ~ ul I,lt,;'S lo ,\ ork with, "I.' IIlU:-''l ollcn settle for capturing the CJjt'Cl r light rather than nUot;;mpfi)lg literal renderings, TI1I! key to doing ~hi!'o i" 11'11.: usc of UNTRASr. Comrnst is, after ~11l. !lw thing ~h<l] p~rm ih. us to discriminate orne 'lhilil!; fT'oOHU another. WitholJl 'il'~ theworld would be ",S invisible as a white rabbitin the snow, The dl'gfl't' ~rcmm'wit within a I aindng determines. 110w brig'l'llt or how faint [he effect or light will appear ill anicture.

~OI example, a Iavorue device to. repre em bright light m Impresstonistic paiutings L 10 mise the values of the darks. l! owcver, fila'! dL H.:: ~11 \ i.d ways sucec cd bCC:1l1::.C i l reduce .... the" onnn 'L Briglu clear ~unHgh~ ah.\ ays p reduces !iiOme strong dark shadows, ifH'n'u,"'illg C'ol'ltra~l 10 the limnL That is \\ hy ul1shinc louktoo like sun hinc, and \\ hy some painlil1g~ than' lack that degree nf ccntrast fail to dcpic1 sunlight. Many high-key Impressionistic pairuings look brilght and sunny in gatlerics or museums only because of the- contrast with their picture frames or the walls on \, lhii,(;h they hang.

he chiamscuro specialists n,etu the other \"io'ay-increa .. ing contrast. illn nlany of their work (he darks consrinne the majcrny nrca, I'har is 11m a had way to represent empty space. except lllH'[ ~fs bonng, and there is: a problem with glare m vn~wil1S such canvases, plus :Ii In~s of the "emptiness' I;!fTecm wht;:'!1 Jus~ gets on thl.: c .. Hivi.l!'! surfuce.' The blackness we normally em ountcr in e\er. day life i n't black >Il1y\'HIY: it i ... just il lot fdal!"k colors butcolors nonejheless. Therefore, when you ee what looks like black in yeur subject, paint 11 withmixtures cfAlizarin Crimson, - .ltrsmarinc Blue, and Transparent Oxide Red (OJ other similar pigments).

M~n,IT)' ~Imi'!hlcnt'd 'me OllT r-ii,!hl [l\!oJy a tJ.cIUI V'l!lI';:~ nith ]elke:- ilbnul h~l'!.'I" \-afl' n-.gh CII,~ ofThis ear ;mt.ll!J":r! !o.it(1\ hiiH"clfbo.\icause he couldn'r paint ~11~ sun, II ... asn'r ex Ctl~1 n-ue .. bur It gol m:,- attention.

I'm l'Ioi 0.1 big fun of \ Jr.:,uu b~[J.d,n~~ , II rcn1JJn~s me 101.} much o]' dcai~'l, J:lc~llh.:.:.; .1 cun achieve bI,u.:knC'~~ Oll'lynmc just by do~ing 1l1~ eyes.

The Ut.:C' ufblimk darkness com ;J1~n be n tcmJ1til1~ way to OM(!,H~ Ii)irngs d'lill rnuy be din'icult ~(lI'Klilll T :-'Ihli",'l:t ll'iil[ II r"w f;n.:~t I11n"h,:'rIi hau .,"k";;)N~ problems "'lib mile subtle oolon. wulnn shadow and resorted to the device ot'blackr .... ":.:-. as a ... \~. {'JUl. Be"C3U.1! lhl!~ pamlcd:so \\1.:1'1 in [he ligln areas" the blac!.. .11'col".:n: pmblJbl}' igllored, At "fI~ rure bIOlC'I\.HI::'>!> sull rernaln .. a p..lj:1l1br WmlllIt.:k,pilrLiL.:LlI.lIly wnh p ... mlet who \\ork trom phOIO .. ,


'l{Ve can achieve astonishing irlTilaticns. of hght by the resourceful juxtapcsition ofvalues, for eXc~III1~~e. increasing the euutr:o:.!.S l berwee n hl'O values not only magni fles~ he distinction between them, b ~t 11. also ~nu~n"'l fiesthe smaller of the hvo- Ihili small wh~u.::' r-;~bbil \\ ill look even w~Lh::r .]~aim.t ~~ I:;H'g~ hackgmund of black, Vmkucs cnn also bL! manipulated '[0 lessen contrast. By choosing only a limited portion of the valac scale in the mmjority area or a P<liTI(in,S, various mood ... or subtleties of atmosphere can be created. Tlus is known as w('lrk~ngin a relue key.

To illusnate: A picture that (:"Qnraifls 01l1]Y white plus ]~ neighboring three '0'[ four values is considered a high~~' painting, One (mal uses only the dam'ker end of the scale is described as luw~L~yetl On.en '[he key can be detiberaiely violated somewhere in the painting with u value above 0.1' bdo\'I ~h~ I;:~y ~I~ an aH~nILm] g~ltinG device. A pure white lieU bright ct)~or. llljcctcd into a low-key pHinling is a f{jJn1ii~~r c~mn1lPl.e, Onl.! caution ~1OWC\er when )'01.1 nre dclib-crald) ere ... l~mg .1 p.~inli~~g m a ,';al:u~ key, don't go o'vemmlrd with theselittle "eye-carchers.t'There ~~ avery thin line between the perfect accent [mel

\ u~garity.

So what do 1 know thus faf!~[ know tlIm ~ can't reproduce hghl :u'tSlJeIJ 'v. ith 'my limitedmaterials, that connast makes

lffil.l.IJ'Ig:~ \ isiMc, and ~htl'L J COII"I separate \ alues in11lJ nine' neat little jufl'lp~. B!I.It ""iii har about the actual business of painting?

I. How do ~ nl.tlktl sense of the jumble of hghtll' and shadows and ether tones ~J1i my ~ubj~cl'? 2. How call n see values clearly in my subject?

,1 How do ] pick om the ·~r.ighf' ones U) lise?

~. How can ~ paint pictures that are streng and simple in value?

QUJ;:st ions Q[J c and two are rc ally the same {tElc second an SW~ rs the fWlI"sl)-1 s on. out t he ju milk ~,h al Lies 1,1]. a s-ubjt:<ct by seeing them elm,.})'_ How can ] l>CC them clearly? By .\frnpJiJ5"ing [hem. How do [ ~ump~ify them? by "~'quiJlling at rhcml Questions three and four alsorequire sqll.linti,ng .1~ the subject: however, [hey bring into pllay two ![)th~T valuable aids as vrell-COiWPARISO;V, and, CO,YSERVATJON,oF n'LCES. let 'LIS explore squinting first.







"GRETCHEN SEWING" Oil 10" x 16"

This is an early portrait (1985) of my daughter Gretchen in our Virginia mountain home-a classic Dutch composition (although horizontal instead of vertical) and a perfect example of the use of pattern to achieve a design. (See CHAPTER EIGHT- COMPOSITION, page 160.) It is almost Rembrandtesque in the use of transparent painting in all of . the darks, and opaque paint in all light areas. Pattern, especially one as strong and simple as this one, is probably the strongest compositional motif. Note how nearly all light areas are connected, as are all dark areas. There are no "floating" spots of light or color to draw the observer's eye away from the focal point. For pure concentration of attention, nothing beats this. It is like a single voice in a quiet room.


Learn thj_~ and vou're horne free' It m~ one ofthe most valuable sktlls vou can have. Wh\,? UCCllU_"~ vour most

,;. .... .-

nJlillla'l11cntld technical problem In "gctung it right" L\i W simpri}_\' \"1 hl'l~ you SC\!. The most aired WiL) tu do Ihat is b} partly

clo~~ng you!" t:yc~ \ .. hen you look ut your subject, Squint dOWI~1 l.In~il most detai ~ tii!,;'~rplool3ir:s and \\ hat you m~ 'looking at nm he grasped as a few ... imple coherent shapes. When rlook at paintings by artists such as Sorolla, or Cecilia Beall'>, or Zorn. il is <;tijll sometimes hard for me to realize that what 1 am eeing j~ what they saw with their eye ' h{J~/=.51~ut/ They knew how to make thing':> simple'!

Srmpliflcntlon 'i.!" ,ulJ\ iou~~y necessary before yml call. palm rtrl~my of 111,,: things you ~ee. lmngine the cDlmL1C'_~~~ derails in n fi!.:ld urgr;.b~, it head of hair, flliluns !!ino",,"', n lace dre- .. , or the branches on [J ~i",t.: of tree .. againM the ~kr, There lU-C too many color change ..... \'alut! imnsinons, edges, and odd .. hapes in such 1hings m attempt 10 render them literally.' Each thing we look at requires simplificaticn at least to the extent dun we can represent it \l"ith expedient bnn hstrokes. Squimmg at

the subject allow~ us 10 reduce derail to patterns that we C<JJI manage. To rllustrate; Hold this book at ann's lcngrh.Jcok at the text, and slow Iy r1()S;L' your eyl!~ unul the paragraphs form gr .. lY rectangles 011 [he page non. you ha\ ~ ~irnp1d·i~J. and you C,1Il paint the J)tlig..: \\ ithout doing the indh, ulual word:. mid lcuers.

B~side!i. th~ infinity {If detail which nature presents to us, cornpl icatinn in a subject also requires that the edges of color shapes be sorted out ilC'con:ting '(0 their relative hardness or s()ftncss.~ When om:' shape blends gradually into another ]t is hard to pinpoint where one ends and the other begins, When transitions are Ibm indcfinite.jhey must be painted that way. 11 is. as simple a~ that. Ii you paint a R1ZZY shape clearly mlt.! dISliJlcU~. it \ .. OI1'l IOI-~k like the- shape on your ~lIhJeLl. Rc.'!!i~l the lmpnlsc tu op .n ymlr L')l'S to see more dl:ar~y because duing that defeats Ihc purpose or"Ql"llnlil1g.)«", 11111\( J'!:~~' nn whu! .1'011 ~'t'(' whefl .rPli ~'/rr;Hf down Ill.:c1gc~ remain ~tmng when ymJ squint, paint them that Wily, lf they are not, 11.101'1·( make them clear unless there is a gund reason to, and the Ch~1Ll'IgC doesn 't o;ignificanl1}.' alter the \'I,'UI)' a subject looks.


l\un-Mli~b \nllc:hing you sqULIIl1 Illight think you un.:: ang;ry, in rain, or h;.l\'~ cyG' trouble, but pay no JJUenli,(In to them becnu ... e il \, erk ... , anlilbat is; ~Il tint counts. BC'oich;o.;,ufs better than having them watch you do a bad painting. It might seem confusing at first but please be patient, Useful squinting is something that comes with practice. and useful practice means doing it properly. Properly means dosing your eye down far enough to redu e the subje("l to a. few shapes=yet not so far that all rorrn ts IO~L The ulea is merely 10 make things sunple, not make thCITI di ·.appCJf rn a blur of fuzz), dark.!'! so don't ::,hLll your eyes dow H !(l0 rill".

M.m;· .lrli~h 'Ir' to aclueve an ex: gg~mh:.J ""l'hulu!!JJflhiC <lpr(',lr~1H1.:1.:" in their \\url.. G!!"rm'llIl :11". in .h~ ISln n:nlul'\ \"d~ lih 111.11 0;,110 wcn: mom)' 01111':0 ~lld Flemi~-h rainling<;, Their \ ny ('IF working seems llf'firorriate to me bccuusc the) were Ihe earb experimenters in realism, but more 8Ilr1l9~llealt~tl methods or reansric p,lnnLmg roll(l\.h;:d then dTorL~. For that rcuson, I reganl meuculously detailed picture- Jmu:: LoJa.y 3:. tliOlTH'. [b if rhe arll~1 1J.~kI:J Ill.: IIlg.:nullj Ill' "hu", dct.ul In ;_, more f.1"l·1I'l~nillg ~~.Iy. l~h;ll "" hen ~uch r'Blllil1~" ure I"l'<I'inJ1L11:11y ~iII,;"(;..:".,ful. tl1l:) evoke hlll~ more tl1dfl In"ll)'l.1limir::nilln for thi: patience requued 10 do thtm.

~ See EDGES, Cbapu 6.

There is a definite limit 'to ho\\ tar down you c~m qumt before )OLlJ' nnugc become something like wha; you might sec jf you were legally blind. It doc ... n·~ take mud trying to Jind ~ha~ point. 1\ly ~\ril.:ricnc~ has been thai. only 1lI'!J'I.~["y ·Imk· closing of the eyes L necessary, perhaps as linle at;; fh e or ten percent. PhYi<iTC~II).\\ hen )'UI1 squint. your cyclashe-, come together IO farm a tiny diffusion screen, That i what dne the trick. Any further closing d0l\11 does nOI help.


11 is irrjportan! to be- m ... urc or Wh:.IlIWl to I,nn·k, for when ~l:1ujming. l lere are -omc thing. ... to k~cp in mind!

I. lt i~ not helpful in determining color, Colors daID"ken when YOLI do it. and you c. n't identify them properly. Oren your cy€s for color.'

1. It is also nut meam to be a. \\O\y of :scoC'ing the II"IJI! value in i.b subject, Obviously, Iht: actual values will be I~ig:hicr when }'O!!J dew your subject normally with open eyes, Uhe darkest d a rk«, howe, cr, will remain a~ li'1I.:Y appear when you quint]. Keep in mind that the purpose ufsquinti'flg i to make judgments ~lhO'l,l1' the reldli;m, M{JS among and between values, 11m to paint the actual shades )OU see during squinting, In other word' you squint down noL 10 sec hew light or dark tlungs really are, but rather which values are lightest, \~h~t"lrI ~TI~ darkest, and which fall ill'lo tlte middle tOHt.:s-comp£lreJ It) Olu'muJ,/H."·"

.3. Some common sense is needed. Iran), ofthe things we paint COIfI~i~t of complicated tangles of small irregular connasnug value thar cannot be interpreted as a single shape with only one predominant value. 'rflU cannot. fter all .. 3'vcragt: 01..1.1 the black and wlute stripes on a zebra and paint 'him Hat gray. He won't look like a zebra: ln such cases .. try 10 separate YOu'!" s.ubjccr L'Il J.'l few major \·all!.lc shapes as possible .. [.I" the shapes arc very HOlY and numerous. view them from UII!,! greatest distance practicable, so Ih~y m~rg~ to lorm J single value.

4_ I have a natural tendency to imp~y forget to keep squinting and open my eyes to sec a vague area more dearly. \Ve all do it, but it is not a gOtld idea. \Vhy'! Be au e looking wide-eyed at my subject. [ \\ ill always see more values than I want or need, 1 hc lengcr 1 stare at <I ~ingle spot. uch a~ cloud in a landscape for example, the more values will appcur. That happens becnuse 11"l~ ki", or Illy eye coraracts 10 u commedntc the bligh'llll's::,. and I therefore sec ddition .. 11 \'iJI~I!IC change, inrhat uneparticulur .. p ~1.. Likes .. ise, when looking into a dark L I'i\:J with wide open eyes, my iris enlarges, and J SJJ;;e" many value clhange,s. Thosevalues afe really there. but they are !'arely u. I~ghil: as values out tde the -had(l'\\' areas.

~ In my 311i sC'liIorill dJ~ ". some (I r my fellow S;11.u:iC'lItS tri ed 10 get arounrl the dJtfke-n i r1 ~ rl'of'I!lII~llII CD u .... .d hr ~tj ui Ul'liD1~. In qCilll, ~h~y Ihr~\\ I he) r eyes om Ot'fOl:Lb or lo(]ked Ihrollgh heJvy [LI1S.('~_ They alt gm headaches frum ~estmi'll and Iltn7£ suecccded tn sorung out "O!!h.uc",_ II tried it too. so IllIll\\.)1 Tin: .1\:iUi{l1l1hnllliJ~~fl·1 \\nr'k has ;"lIlll1l.:lhill!; h~ 00 with 111' C~!I!\ aulum.lllL: I"C)C'II .. inl; n:SJJUIIS{." .md he JisorIl.:'lilt .... iuD Ihal fulBO\!o S \', hen It is frmlraued.\'\·orkil1g fm111 poorly-focu-cd phfltns; hns the orne unsettling cffecr c'\voiJ them,

I.:.JLUES :5

5. Be careful of reflected lights within shadows, They arc fIIeH~1I' as 1i~i1t or as colo r fl.l~ asthey seem at a casual glance. Sq:u~m dawn 31 the Ill. and you "" ill sec that the} are about the same value as the overall shadow area.

16. Neve» "fJ'~'im ,ul J'mlf·l."tfm'tl~~ P~upl~ Jtl thisull th time bccaus it st:'~nh 10 dimlliliatc rm takes by making ~H'ry~hing in their l1i [LUre :1001\ .. ul] llfHJi "arty," It is rhe snmc dcvirerhat Hollywoad lIS,C~ to film ;,]ging mov ie stars (u<;,ing a sofl focus lens 10 nbSCU1"C' wrinkle ~. They only kid tlu!mst:h'>fs and !;O \\'iH rOll, SO '~O repeal-squint at your subject but open your eye. [0 look at your painting! Don" r:;et 1'1';.'1; bac/m'm'd' !



I tun.: been describing "ql1lintiI1~ as a \\':1:)1 of simplifying ahc !oubjcct, but hun, do ~ p~d: cui. mile "rig1hf" \~Iu~s once I have [hing~ o,;ng-Ie.rn out? let ITIt: first give you my definition of "right values' ill ~ painting t~lC} arc any Si:l of darks and lights that have rhe arne relationship to one another <10; due values in my ubjcct .. 1 f the degree ef contrast in m} painting is me same as. m the subject, then 1'1111 on .he money Compartso« allow me to do that, 'ompari on i~ a \ ita] techniqae for detcrmimng all clements in u parnting+cdgcs, color, unddrawing-c-aswell as values, (Drawing is, iJ!n.t~'T till. simply coN,PfJw'ing dimensions h:l an C""IHblD~hcd meusurcmcm.) \~,'hi!n comparison ~~ used ~]ICfil!! wjrh squinuug, i'l ~~II.s you when sorncthing doesn 'f hekmg; and when il doc ... {'{lll1paril1I; is most effective when you :.h!p hackvsquim down. a!u.ljucllgt: your entire painting against the entire subjectSargent reportedly placed his canvas very close 10 his subiect, making all his

deci ions from a. stepped-back position (about eight feet), He' then returned to his canvas, applied hils brush trokes (withom ~.OOkl[!'Lg at. (he-modell, and stepped bad again to see if they looked nght, m-Ie is said to have' done rL1Jl for \ irtuatly ev~ry brushstroke in Ilis, p:iiI1Ting~. That '.ook exceptional discipline, but judging from hts work, it was certainly \\ orth [to

'While- cornparingis clearly importarrt, it isn't particularly difficult. II DrU~ !"I. c il in our UHil)' routines to make judgments about everything from \l hat cokrr socks to wear, to who willmake .1 gum] president, aturally, a ~wmhud or Some' kind is a1vrays involved. I choose an obvious easy-to-see value In the subject as In}' standard of comparison. I'Il'HI often select a model's white collar or black hair. tor example, It i then relatl\'cJ~ t!asy for me to judge the ubrle skin 'I.cne i(middlt> values) by comparing I.h~rh to th ' pure white or black, Sllb.lled~ with extremely contrasting alues are ah"ay ea ier to sort ntH' tht 111 those hadng very balanced values, One reason ] love snowy landscapes, <111(.] '\'i/h~' they urc a 1'1:1('1 to paint,

i'i th at I have all of 1 hal lovdy \~ h ~ tc S !JU fF ~ ~ a criterion fo r cc m pa rison,

o SERVA 10 . OF VAL 'E

Tho masters who maintained simple value patterns in their paintings seldom. used more than Iive value (except hi the transition Z0l11<:'~ and .'iOn edges between shapes]. Yuu CHn see this dramatically in black llID'ld whue rcprcducuons of works bj Howard Pj le, 5,.;l1:w, \',mdyki:, uml others. They were Sling,) with the number of tones the) used ~lnll never employed more rhan '!oNere necessnry. hi many of his portraits, S;;Jjfgen~ u uall~ empley donI) thr e vulue-, in the light 1\\'('1 in the darks, and [hen added some incidental highlight» and dark accent.

ou /J LL/1 .I. .J\,11V1I.:I.

"ANTIQUE MIRROR" Oil 22" x 26"

This ecutJomy or conservation Qj'wJlue: i ba ed on two ideas. The first IS that a fev .. clear-cut value in a painring u ill yield a mnre power ul \ isual effect (though I1(U necessanty u more "artistic" one) than a profusion ohm all values. Thill i~ \\ hy Impressionistic p>lintirlg, which .J~ a rule pay .. ImUIe allen ion to lnJJi'ig value paUl.:rns, i n( I as d1t:cli\\! in monochrome reproduction as it i:-, in fuU color, [lrnpressienisrn by its nature is concerned lJo. ilh other effects.)

The second idea is rhnr it is unneee: 'lJryt!o use all values in 3 subject, Color ch~ng,cs, C<l11 frequently be used instead, This: substirution or color for value is often not only more pleasing. but also makes better sense, W'hy? Because' we IU11\'e many rnure colors than \. alues at 0 IJr d isposal, SCI usl ng a color instead soves 1.1 val ue, Superb examples 0 r tha t. usc of color urc found in the puiraing» nl' ~~ a ry C~~!'i~.uU_ She had ~111;;' UrLc~nny ability ~c portray form wiLh almu:\!t no pcrrcptiblc ICbrkenDllg-a feet impussible \\ ithout color,

Manet and Bertl1e 1\rm;.:;ot were also god at that They understood the \\ eakne '11'. in ovcrmodeling=ahe use of too man) values to indicate form. hey were careful to keep their design: mong by maintaining simple values-dearly establishing then major areas as belonging in either tilt: hght or dark. and .I1U..,.[ im. ding those areas with needless OJ inappropriate \I;;IILII,:"'_

Fortunately "'I;;) have ~1I1 unlimited supply or color and way!' to U~~ III "111. Full' example, ill i:JJfCtlI. uC grudual d1arkel'1liing caused by contours. a {W'1J' in theform Oil {I mfljecl f!f U'I mm:lr ({'ii i/O dei-wee.> call he ~lwn'I'i 11'1'" cnlrn" diCnI.r:.e, .. afonebefore a change in value becomes necessary, Ivl)' personal guideline ism alwars check if changing the color rcmpcrarures or my miNIUT'e'S ,,·ill do the job before 1 change the value,

value relationships arc ccnilin~y nor ull llu!;, cut and dried und there is certainly room rc make dlOIC'CS about ~n"Ipll~lsizillg or re~tF.linil1g IhC'1n ~o meet your artistic ifilllo!iUions. but keeping yOUI' v.3I!':I~s Llncomplic'Il.:.J and lew in number l a ouad idea no rnauer what creative changes you do or do not make. It Illlow. you to !'>implif}' the ,\-ay YOLI look at a subject and render it. ] 31 0 believe=without que, L1on-thaf 11 js the basis of strong color and design,


W'lt(;h out for hiShhght.,,~ They are rarely as bng;h~ u:, you think they are. Choose JliOT to paintthem at all unless you think they are nece ..... ary. (Thus is especially true in pertrairs.] UYOll I1msl paint them, find oul '~dlal color they are, don't just use white ~11(Dne. Al 0, look for one hig]lhgN [('I dominate all ethers in a painting. This i especially true in painting eyes. The highlight in one eye tusually the nearest to you) always predominate over [he other, and neither are as bright a' they Ilrst appear, Don't ju l make them wlure, male them a color (usual y il] cool]. Squint at them and see!

The ;t:,0lL11l" us true for the whues, of c}',~, They are never wbile.' Usuall} th y are ~~mD~.i.I!L" in color [0 surrounding flesh \(IVlC:-'. but slightly light~r and less warm [and quite cooler in children's cycsj.Also the whites of both eyes in. <11 subject. at the whites on either side of a pupil. [Ire rarely e(I~li.iIl in value, and their edges. as iJlJ edges 111 eyes. arc illwil) s soft Painting things too light or too dark always happens. when ),011.1 don't accept whar you .ee \VI'fl1 Y{lU squint, or when you open your eye s ro see more clearly, Isn't this great to know?

Dark accents, where they are appropriate, are always more effective than highlights. Look for them! Almost always they will be extremely warm in temperature-warmer than any nearby color regardless of the temperature of the light source on the subject. I don't know why this is so, they just are. Usually they will be mixtures of Transparent Oxide Red plus Alizarin Crimson and a touch of Ultramarine Blue Deep. Cool colors as dark accents usually produce a "dirty" look. Exceptions where the dark accents actually are cool (relative to surrounding colors) usually involve local color changes at the point of the accent, such as an abrupt pattern change in the folds of fabrics, or more frequently, in landscape painting when many different substances are intermingled (soil, grass, rocks, water, snow, branches, etc.). Transparent substances such as water, ice, snow, clouds, etc., also can have cool dark accents along with warm ones.

Choose to be bold rather than timid with values. Don't hold back when you clearly see strong lights and darks. For example, the most common error I see when students do portraits or figures is a reluctance to paint dark enough in shadow areas. The main reason this happens is they are afraid that the color will not look like "flesh," or it will look "muddy."

N either of these things will happen if the appropriate color temperature is maintained. Flesh tones, after all, can be any color-even pitch black when the lights go out.

The other more common reason for painting darks too light is that painters tend to open their eyes to see better into the shadows-that natural reflex again, and it's OK for seeing color, but don't do it for values-squint and compare the shadow to other correctly painted darks.

"STONE BRIDGE" Oil 16" x 36"


1. We only have nine values to work with from white to black, and we can't hope to duplicate the true range of lights and darks in nature.

2. We can, however, create the effect of light by using the relationships between values in our pictures.

3. We can determine those relationships by squinting down at our subject to simplify it until we can see which areas and shapes are lightest, darkest, and which fall into a limited range of middle tones.

4. We can use a standard of comparison such as a pure white or black in the subject to make those judgments.

5. We can avoid running out of values and overmodeling by substituting color changes for value changes whenever possible.

6. We can effect a strong value structure in a painting by restricting the number of values in the major areas.


"KEWASKUM SNOWFALL" ~ Oil 9" x 18"

"PARKBENCH" (Madrid) Oil 8" x 12"


Think about edges the \\.1)' yuu would lhink :.100[11 kissing someone. Ho\l" muny arc the ways ami \"'ha1 call you irnpnrt 'in the prm;,.:"" '? Think of edges ""I exquisjte !>O~lh1lcti I'i. ~s the me .. ns to transmit romance. as w~ys to make yom dabs of paint whisper, orvbout. and reach nuance beyond Lhe range of calm. Think of them asvisual poetry oozing from your brush but especially think of edges as you would the agents or expression in music.

lt is surpri ing how many parallels there are between mlJ~JC and painung. W..: artists peak of harmony. 'I,Olld,

rhythm. notes, [OUTD. composition, ~nd so 0, word!': IIm~ .[11\.;' also musical terms. I think Grl:dgc~,[]~ pienissimo (very soWn .

• mdanre (tlowing). allcgru \ ivacc (f<lsl and lively), rnacslosn (majestic], fortissimo con sforvando (whamol I. These

beuuti lul adjcclin;::-; are uSl:d in muo;;iC'alrhras~ng to de..:ignak the physical manner in which note' are "attacked" a .. well as the way they are strung; together, This \ ariation of touch and speed gives rnu ic ]15 ri -hness of expression, and a. 13\ls11) variety of edge doe the same thing in painting.

Whil~' thcrc i certainly no cxa 1 correlati n b~l'V!,l~I:'I1 mU~I,C' and patnung, cenuil1J comparisons can bemadc ubout ihe \\ a~' we "uuack' a p::Iinl mgt \1,I;1h our "notes" ()f co~or. Each time \lo.C touch a brush i' lour canva .. ". c create 'dge.'i 011 the frilll,Se 'Df each brushstrokc and i111o;;, the character of tho. c edges that makes the difference, That difference L not only about the lyrical qllaht} of ur paimililg. j~ is al 0 crucial to whether or n t our '\, nrk looks c ,I'i\ wncing. You and ~ focus our eyes in a uniquely selective way when we look at [bings inthe course of our daily routines, Edges are [he o]]ly visualtools rn am aware (J~ that can repli 'ail:' that spc ial wa~ of rocLl~in.;;;.

We SCI.: in \ll.·t!JYS lhm ran carnerns or recording device ('::In quite dup]icalc ~ not yet ,al])'\VIilY). So far. only "I certain 'type' of highl):-skiUl;!d paillting C;Jn come cl sc to the \HI)' \,,·c 11l1111<Ji11. actually see things tbccnu eo the s('ciJ~g painter i. the recording devicel. U \\'C are sensitive to lhe variety ol.Jf edges in our su'hjecl. and we, can translate them into appropriately hard or oft transirions between color shape . there will be magic in curpainting .. If \ e sgnore ed res our workwill be 11:11 and unconviacing. RCl1l(:mbcr. ] am referring here on~y to painting Lhi;ll uucmpts to create an Ullishm or,an inllividl!lal'~ Ord]nLli)' isual rcaluy \,irIUUU) all olhcl: \\:.Iy. of puinting, while unqucstionalsly valid in terms nfartisric license, are dl;l'vi<lili~)n~, from, Dr changed versions, of nature.

uperb displ Y" of edge .. ::U~ pre. cnt In 11100;,t of the masterpieces of representational painting be Tinning about the time 0 r Vel asq uez am d Hal. and con ti nu i.t"lg th rou gil the begi 11 n i ng of d'lc 20th ceru umy. Vil"111CSOS .of edge were keen Iy aware of them and made fuH U! c of their potential, Ioday however, edgesare probabiy the least understood o OUI LOoh.1 J <11]11 not sure wh\ this b 50, perhaps it i~ because there ~s MJm~thiIH! uncomfortr bl c1uSL\ I! a~ out them. Their verv ~'1atLU"C makes Ihl.!R1. doi ITtCll~~·' UJ 1'fI 'a ure or de" fine, and much ill our pC'rcc-plion~ of edges a:. \ve--H 11;' our judgment in 'l.:'nth:r1ng"lhcm is pun:lr subjective, The sood Ile\VS; is that there are things about edges [hat are not arbitrary, .0 let us explore them tog~lher.

lneelhe I !,I30-. e,>.cept for the \\ork or ~um~ drsungui hed l"ll~R'<ItOn.. lh.r .'klll~ 3.11tt:mling Cdgl:' oppenr (0 "'''\I._~ gmJUiilly ILkdmi:d In pain:img. To In} 1mt~\",'kJgt:. n~!I much hus been \~,nH(,11 at Icllg1h ,~bnll~ Ih":ITl .• ..,J Ihl:Y .lIe gl\ en limned Jt'l,;nhl~fI LI1 pamtil1;.! iINrllcIIOI~.




Edges arc (he borderlines betw cen shapes or C{)~or where they it log~lh~r. They OCClI.l" at dU' hOLl~\darics of t~1I shapes \\ ithin a painting as ;,!"e11 Ul> it1 .1 subje l. ThoS-1;! bnuudaries ~dg-:s <Ire ~U[)lO!lmrHy designated as either "hurd" or "sotl" in Vilr:,V11lg degrees. The hanhU::!i" or softness of the edges describes the {lrm.'i:;tirm" between 'Ihose sharu:s, They can be extrernely abrupt (bard or sharp edge). or very gradual ('Soft edge~, or somewherem-between . For those "in-between" edges, let's call them "moderate" or "tntennediare.' When a shape of color blends into another so gradualjy that it ] , impossible to tell where one begins and ihe other ends, 'il is called a Ius' edge.

Unfortunately, W~ lad .. vocabulary to describe edges any better thun ihat, Unlike our musician Friends. '\VC' labor without the technical cvpre ... sion!> 1h::ll cot h.l specify le1Hlcl~y how son or hard am] edge rnigln be. AU wehave are a few adjeclh es . ort. mcdcrate. hard lor sharp]. and lost, That's about it except fer word ~jke fie:),. ha:"J, blurred. firm. razo« shmp. or muddlers such as l'erv, mediwu. extremely. and so ot:'l-no[ much to choose from.

I. HO\\1 nd why they occur in thc' subject.

2. How 10 iderni fy their characteristics,


U you are new to the use of edges, or have trouble seeing jhem, it may help [0 'begin by understartdina .ho\\ they occur. Start by looking carefully at something any Lhing._ Look. round the room where you sit reading thi '. I uk out the window or just glance ut yourself in a mirror, aml yuu will sec cdgc:swlu:rl.:',"crany 1'.'1"0 ormore visible shapes meet, Here arc the main reasom they appear the way Lhey do:

A. The mherent shape of lhings. Often you can expect to see soft edges en rounded objects such as anatomical features, the folds ~m] fabric; Of a field of gra ' curving lowly away. Anything 3!_IDgu'~a:r or sheared, like a sheet of [papel!' or ,I stitf collar; or arch i~cclural r()nn~, may seem sharply-edged.

B. The intrinsic C·locilI]"} value and color of things (like a yellow dn:~s or black han, Elements or shapes tl1~1t are similar in value (l,r color will oppt>ar to han: a softer transition between them than elementswhich contra •. even ihoughthe real (physical) edge is the arne. for cxarrrple; ~jj'~ou place a dark bhle againsr a dark green. their boundarywill Iookso let thalli i the col ors are dark blue ag;lIns~ brightorang».

C. The nature of 111mg -nhat they 1JIfC made of-dOl.l.di>, curly blond hair, and the rear cnd~ ofdu.h are likelyto '11::1\0'1: softer edges limn bricks or door frames, The substances of '~hmg~. however, arc nul a 1'\\ nys a reliable guide in determining an edge,

D. The ~ighl-bcw strong, (H weak, or diffused it is, and the angle it is hwt1ing the suhject. A single powerful hght source such as the sun or a potliglu t-rHdng, (j! UbJCCl at nght angle, [0 you wi]] likel,)" produce harp edge. usuully ~]S cust ::.hlldows. On rhe other hand. north daylight OJ:" overcast lugh! \\ ill yield softly-diffused edges, m-lai"d edges nil di fflbC light are mail1lly [he rc~ult of smnr.:lhifl~ ojher 1han the liig'hr.

E. The atmosphere+how clear or murky ~] is. This is a familiar concern in landscape and marine painting. though it occasienaljy happens indnors as \'\eU_ The daril~, of [he air. or [he lack of u, ~. a powerful influence on the ijui.lllily of 'he li_ght-th,;.ll, in tum. ,tl]\;Cl:l. cJgl: .... " All edges in u hlndscape tend to soften .... ith distance. Fog and IHIZ~. for example. dramaticully subdue edges with dismncc, \\ hi lc clear ail' can oftcn maini.)in ~ul'l1!.!wh'mt shm·p~1' edges at 10111; dis.tance~.!

f.. Motion. To lOur eyes, things blur when tiley move. If you paint n1O\'L01g th][lgs with hard edges it will look as if you copied a high-speed photograph. Ocean \'\,Ia\ ~:S, flying birds, Vi, tcrfalls, U~e"':i in ihe wind, and cverytlung else that U1lflVC:' rnu 'I be: cHrcii.llI) s.ludi~d ;J!~ CUgilo!' problems. YQur subject .olIght Ii.) be nWL'emt'u' itself rather than ~hc thing inm~ltilul1l-llni;'"m~l1~ of a~h in,gb~rtl for e ..... rnplc, fm{ "hO\~, prt:'Uy its f'l;!alhcfS lIin:, Nearly ~II'I movement ~I] mnml'c occur'; a W3"'"C motion or mher similar rerelit~\·c flow, Even when things appear to change rand, mly and unpredictably (like cloud shapes), their rnoi ements have a panem ~ha~. can be understood. Take lhe lime

necessary [0 see such panerns+noncc the shapes that occur and reoccur. Then paint them with sojl edges

(a ecnuin aIYlO'lHU cf'cxpcrnncnun]; ss l!J!>uulll. flI.:Le~~UI')')'. The result ",iii be surpnsingly convincing.

A note of,c[llition-'lhere is rarely a sinale C;/!us<c lorthe appearance nrolln edge. The way it looks in a !'lLlhjec;[ is usually a comhillatiorl of the main fact rs de-scribed above. Atmo .. phere, light. values, colors. motion, textures, and] form can imermiugle iII bewildering \vay:s. h ts interesting tu figure out what you ere looking a~, but: don't worry if you can't C\.p~a~~'11 it. h is more imporunt to simply rL"C,oglljz~ edge::.. l recognizc countless l'",'~~yday things and deal \vuh them successfully without undersn 11,dii11g them in the :;;Iigl'ut,;s[ my IUlX returns. for example, As [I general policy. it i~ a good idea to place the- rr;harpe"'! edges wn )~our painl1ng within or very near Ihe focal point b!;:C3I1.1SC \\C ~CE: ihrn,( way naturally, Okl'llcC' around and you will ee ihat jt i .. rmpos ible to focus on nne thing and till have' sharp edge .. in your peripheral vision,

:1 A problr:m I .:1'11'1 rllmlliill" with. 'I he lIllII!!.lIl1l1ly dl:al" .lIf here ill Lilt; Rod,y II,llllll1laim. nnell defeats Ihl: d'i'",'t·' uf J.1:1l:l!1 pI,; pecuve, Dil-lillll

mm.ll1l.1ill1iO.lJllJjC-" can appear 3" ,doo"l.:' II~ nearby llnc;..n:ry ~mnoJ'il1" 5(lfl,l;';:I1~ complained 1lbllLlt II h1o\1 \It,:c huvc that much in cummon,

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