Learning to paint plein air: materials

I been going outdoors to paint plein air again this summer, both as a teacher and just for fun. Therefore, I’m also a student, trying to improve.

I thought I’d share what I take with me. Today I’ll show my oil painting kit, and next time I’ll show what I take for watercolor.

Oil paints:

This is the kit I use. A Julian French easel, still the industry standard, as far as I know.

materials for plein air painting French Easel, open

 

I love it. It’s compact, comes I straps for carrying, a zippered bag for traveling with it, and it can adapt to uneven terrain, if you’re standing in a slope for example. The drawer slides out, giving you access to the brushes and stuff under the drawer of paint.

Not shown, but other things you should bring with you: drinking water, a hat, small folding table or tv tray, folding stool to sit on, tape, a bag for trash.

 

 

materials for plein air painting; French easel, open
materials for plein air painting French easel, open showing palette and brushe

 

 

 

 

MATERIALS LIST for Plein Air

Paints  (small tubes)   

materials for plein air painting oil paints

Titanium white, Zinc white, Burnt umber, Burnt Sienna, Yellow ochre, Ivory black,   Cadmium red light, Alizarin crimson, Cadmium yellow medium, Cadmium yellow light, Nickel yellow,  Courbet Green, Sap green, Cobalt teal, Cobalt blue, Cerulean blue, Pthalo blue, Ultramarine blue

This set of colors gives me three color schemes I can choose to use: light and airy, bold, or earth tones.

Pencils (2B, 4B) and a sketch book

Canvases, panels, or canvas boards, whatever size you’re comfortable with. Bring an extra one.

Rags or a roll of paper towels or both

Brushes– the basics brush types are round, bright, flat and filbert

The brushes I carry are shown above, along with palette and painting knifes, and a couple of old brushes that create unusual textures:

materials for plein air painting Brushes

Hog bristle:

1@ #12 Bright, 1@Round//1 ea @#8, #6, #4 round, //2@ #8 flat

Soft synthetic bristle:

2@ #18 Flat, (only one showing)// 2 or 3 each #10, #8, #4, #2

4 palette/painting knives

2 dried-up brushes with stiff bristles for drawing into wet paint

Palette knifeor Painting knifefor mixing paints and/or painting with

Mediums or thinners  for acrylics:bring water and container:  plastic yogurt or Tupperware, for mixing and cleaning.  Gloss medium

For oils:  you won’t need a lot of painting medium: buy a jar of pre-made painting medium and keep the jar for future use. You’ll also want small tin cups that attach to your palette and a small (2-3”) glass jar or can with a lid to carry out your cleaner. Pour it into another jar or can, let the crud settle to the bottom for a day or two and pour off the clean thinner off the top.

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Thinking About A Painting From 28 Years Ago

A few weeks ago I received an email from a woman who, with her husband, bought a painting of mine, Violet Dawn (below), from the Peyton Wright Gallery in Santa Fe, NM, dated 1991. So, it would have been purchased in 1992 or ’93. She and her husband are looking at what will become of the art they have lovingly collected over many years, including quite significant names: Ruscha, Basquiat, Motherwell, Thiebaud, Kandisky, Brice Marden, and lots more. I am proud and humbled to be in such company.

As they are looking to eventually donate their collection, she asked me to write something about the painting they bought, Violet Dawn, to help facilitate registrars and curators wherever it may eventually land. Now, this is a painting I created 28 years ago! I dug out my box of slides, 4×5 transparencies, announcements and artists statements and got after it. Starting with the kind of motivation that’s powered by vanity (I am one of my favorite subjects to write about) I headed down a rabbit hole of memory. What I found there, and what I am to do with it will be the subject of this and likely more posts to come.

Violet Dawn, 48”x64”, acrylic on canvas, 1991

First of all, I’ll say that slides sucked. You can read more of my rant about it below.

But what’s more interesting is the mental and emotional process I went through, reflecting on how I saw myself then: my ambitions and goals, doubts and demons, the victories and the concessions I made, opportunities given – some squandered, some realized- and to put that next to how I see myself and my artwork now was a little disconcerting. Staggering might be a better word, because the changes in style and subject matter seem pretty stark. As does the fame and fortune I anticipated that hasn’t materialized yet. I accept that I did what I thought was best, but I wish now that I’d made different choices. Who doesn’t, I wonder?

Could I have dug deeper to find a way to continue doing what was popular, and seemed likely to have provided that most precious and elusive brass ring: a sustained living as an artist? Probably, since anything is possible, but since the past is immutable self-flagellation is pointless.

I didn’t realize then that if you don’t make the decisions about the artist you want to be other people will make them for you, either out of self-interest or in their effort to help. It’s difficult for a lot of us to know or see other people’s agendas when they’re offering help. Being over-sensitive, an introvert, a little naive about how the world (people) works, socially awkward when it comes to self-promotion, makes many of us are not the players the system was made for.

The answer? Belief in yourself, and practice, practice, practice until you are supremely confident in your skills? Sure. But continuing to show up to work, so the muse knows where to find you seems to be the first and best method for success in this field. Luckily this field gives us all kinds of ways we can define success for ourselves.

In the absence of making a living, gaining recognition, support from anyone other than family and close friends, we’ve been performing pirouettes of rationalization and modifications to keep going for years. Living outside the system has left us scrambling for much of what we do as artists. We find ways of convincing ourselves to keep showing up, at least for another day. In my recent case, having someone still happy with a painting after 30 years gives me hope that perhaps I’ve got one more painting worth making.

The rant about slides:

I found the slide of the painting and took it and 59 slides of other paintings and sculpture – 3 sheets of slides – to have scanned so I can I have a digital archive of my past work. I was struck, going through what was hundreds and hundreds of dollars on slides, remembering the many hours not only the actual photographing, but then taping and labeling them, organizing them to send out with statements and prices: this was the standard, accepted, affordable technology at the time, and now it’s been outdated for 20 years.

How long before we switch again to the next best tech, or has it happened and I’m behind the times? I suppose it’ll all have to be transferred again whenever that day comes.

Slides were a pain in the ass. We needed plenty of slides to send out, and mostly you couldn’t count on them being returned. You had to shoot enough of them to not have to have duplicates made, because every time you duplicated a slide you would lose fidelity to the image. Plus, in order to be sure you had the right exposure, you shot at the setting that showed the correct f-stop, then shoot them again at a lower f-stop, then again at the next setting that was a stop above the “correct” one. By now you had shot 7 or 8 at each which makes 21- 24 photos. For the first painting. Repeat for each painting, twelve paintings to document comes to, say 250 to 288, photos, each of which then needs to be developed, then the good ones had to be taped off so there was only the painting and black. No background, just black, so even if the painting was exactly the same dimensions as the view finder in your camera, you had to be sure you got all of of the painting, so the only other option was to shoot against a black felt backdrop.

Many of the same issues apply to digital “slides”: cropping, adjusting the color, and probably a couple other things I can’t think of, but it sure is easier and cheaper (once you buy the computer and software). So much easier, and better in every way.

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More WorkShop-Talk

This blog is about what to expect at the workshops.

First of all, please bring your own painting gear, including a pad of canvas paper, Or 6-10 extra canvas boards or used canvases. The point will be to practice so we’ll be doing a lot of painting. I suggest 11″ x 14″, up to 16″ x 20″, especially if you’re using the canvas paper or boards, but of course bring a size you’re comfortable with.

I will supply coffee and light snacks (not to be confused with lunch).

The Saturday will begin with a talk/lecture about the subjects of the workshop, explaining the things to practice to become proficient at each, and giving demonstrations.

Then we’ll practice. I will have a still-life set up, chosen to illustrate the lesson, and for those who can’t stand the idea of another still-life, I’ll have alternate sources available.

At some point in here we’ll have lunch. There are places nearby to pick up something or bring your own.

The rest of the day will be spent going over the lessons, so that by the end of the day you’ll understand more of the how-to of painting. Repetition, repetition, repetition is the path to muscle memory, which allows the artist to paint without having to think about every stroke.

The Sunday of the workshops will be spent either continuing what you painted the previous day or work on a project using the lessons of the workshop.

To register for a workshop please use the comment section below. Be sure to include the dates you’re interested in.

Here are the workshops outlined in more depth:

Workshop 1: April 27-28

Shapes into Forms: Learning to see shapes (2D) and develop them into forms (3D) and

Blending and Shading: how the light hits a form and describes it.

The essentials of painting are recognizing and describing simple shapes, as they not only describe objects but also move the viewer’s eye through the painting- that is composition. Solid forms are made from simple shapes by adding a light source and shading. Complex forms are made by combining simple forms, and overlapping forms creates palpable space. The essentials of painting are recognizing and describing simple shapes, as they not only describe objects but also move the viewer’s eye through the painting- that is composition. Solid forms are made from simple shapes by adding a light source and shading.

Complex forms are made by combining simple forms, and overlapping forms creates palpable space. Learning how to simplify what you’re looking at is crucial. From there you can organize the elements that make up the image.

Workshop 2. Composition: May 4-5

How to get people to stop, look, and stay longer.

You could it “the art of manipulation.” Large directional lines and variety in the intersections of shapes direct the viewer’s eye through your painting. Using examples from art history, posters and cartoons, we’ll look into how.

Workshop 3. Fabrics and Drapery: May 11-12

Using lessons from Shapes into Forms, we’ll learn about a specific case on how to use cylinders, mostly, to create a soft flowing form and how it bends and changes direction. In order to further describe different fabrics, we’ll touch upon painting textures, which is all about which brushes to use, how to handle the brush, and the viscosity of the paint.

Workshop 4. Reflections:May 18-19

Glass, water and chrome are the most obvious examples of reflections, which are defined by, in a word: fluidity. Most of the lines we draw signify edges in the physical world, with the exception of reflections (and shadows), which remain 2D. The shapes in reflections exist side by side rather than overlapping. Lessons learned: wet into wet brush technique, seeing shapes,

Workshop 5. The Art of Copying: June 1-2

Evert artist in every discipline learns by copying, so we may as well do it right. When we copy a painting we’re also copying the painter, in that we try to paint not just what the painting looks like, and not just how they painted. Of course the intention is to learn to paint by emulating their brushstrokes and style, but a secondary intention is to unlock secrets about how the artist made the choices they did: What did they emphasize, how, and why?

For reference on stealing from artists you admire, Google John Cleese and read “Steal Like An Artist” by Austin Kleon.

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Schedule for workshops

I will be teaching a series of 5 Weekend Workshops this Spring:

April 27/28:    Shapes into Forms: Learning to see shapes (2D) and develop them into forms (3D), blending and shading

May 4/5:           Composition (The art of manipulation): How to get people to stop, look, and stay a little longer.

May 11/12:       Fabrics and Drapery

May 18/19:       Reflections: Glass, water and chrome

June 1/2:           The Art of Copying (Not Forgery 101)

The workshops will be 5 hours Saturday, 10:00-3:00, and Sunday 10:00-2:00.

The cost for the workshop will be $150 for 2 days, or $100 for either day.

In order to register for any of the workshops please reply through the comment section below or contact me at wilson7945@gmail.com

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Spring Workshops

My horoscope told me yesterday that I should be more communicative, that to attract more people to my business I need to broadcast more. Since I and my accountant want me to teach more and sell more, I may as well take advantage of this “sign” and use the horoscope’s advice. Who knows? It may work out.

This is a new, one month old, as-of-yet untitled painting that was commissioned from an older painting seen on my website: michaelbwilson.com 

 

untitled

untitled oil on linen, 40”x32” 2019

If you’d like to commission a painting please leave a comment, or send me an email: wilson7945@gmail.com or contact me through my website. Thank you.

Right now I’m planning several weekend painting workshops for the spring. I don’t have the details finalized yet, but the costs will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $135 for each workshop, discounted for multiple workshops. Dates will be April 27, May 4, 11, 18, and June 1. I will make a formal announcement soon. If you’re interested please let me know. Replies to this blog post will receive a 10% discount on the cost of the workshops.

The weekend workshops will be set up so you can choose both days or just one, if you prefer. Saturday will be 4-6 hours of demos, practice lessons, and critique, with a break for a snack or lunch. Sunday would be a 3-hour day to finish any projects you began the day before, or to bring in a project you’re working on that relates to the subject of the workshop. 

Workshop 1:

Shapes into Forms: Learning to see shapes (2D) and develop them into forms (3D). Blending and Shading how the light hits a form and describes it. The essentials of painting are recognizing and describing simple shapes, as they not only describe objects but also move the viewer’s eye through the painting- that is composition. Solid forms are made from simple shapes by adding a light source and shading. Complex forms are made by combining simple forms, and overlapping forms creates palpable space.

The essentials of painting are recognizing and describing simple shapes, as they not only describe objects but also move the viewer’s eye through the painting- that is composition. Solid forms are made from simple shapes by adding a light source and shading. Complex forms are made by combining simple forms, and overlapping forms creates palpable space. Learning how to simplify what you’re looking at is crucial. From there you can organize the elements that make up the image.

new painting

Detail of new oil painting currently In-process

Workshop 2:

Composition (The art of manipulation): How to get people to stop, look, and stay a little longer. Using examples from art history, posters and cartoons, we’ll look into how large directional lines and variety in the intersections of shapes can direct the viewer’s eye through your painting.

Workshop 3:

Fabrics and Drapery: Using lessons from Shapes into Forms, we’ll learn about a specific case on how to use cylinders, mostly, to create a soft flowing form and how it bends and changes direction. In order to further describe different fabrics, we’ll touch upon painting textures, which is all about which brushes to use, how to handle the brush, and the viscosity of the paint.

untitled new painting

Detail of in-process oil painting (area shown 18”x22”)

Workshop 4:

Reflections: Glass, water and chrome are the most obvious examples of reflections, which are defined by, in a word: fluidity. Most of the lines we draw signify edges in the physical world, with the exception of reflections (and shadows), which remain 2D. The shapes in reflections exist side by side rather than overlapping. Lessons learned: wet into wet brush technique, seeing shapes,

Workshop 5:

The Art of Copying (Forgery 101):

Evert artist in every discipline learns by copying (Google John Cleese on stealing), so we may as well do it right. When we copy a painting we’re also copying the painter, in that we try to paint not just what the painting looks like, and not just how they painted it. Of course, the intention is to learn to paint by emulating their brushstrokes and style, but a secondary intention is to unlock secrets about how the artist made the choices they did: What did they emphasize, how, and perhaps why?

 

 

 

 

 

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The value of sketching

{*I found this beginning of a post in my draft folder and decided to work with it. However, in full disclosure I’m not sure I’m the author, except for the caption with “drawing 2015.” And I don’t know who the author is, but a tip of the hat to them.}

A sketch (ultimately from Greek σχέδιος – schedios, “done extempore”[1][2][3]) is a rapidly executed freehand drawing that is not usually intended as a finished work.[4] A sketch may serve a number of purposes: it might record something that the artist sees, it might record or develop an idea for later use or it might be used as a quick way of graphically demonstrating an image, idea or principle.

1.Notice or perceive (something) and register it as being significant;                                     2.Watch (someone or something) carefully and attentively;                                                       3.Take note of or detect (something) in the course of a scientific study.

 

Sketching is great for rapid idea generation.

Buffalo Ink019Buffalo Ink017

 

The key to generating many ideas is to withhold judgment of them as good or bad until your sketching session is complete.

 

 

 

 

First capture the ideas, letting them flow without worrying if they’re any good. Wait until you’re finished to judge and filter.Buffalo Ink016

 

  1. Explore the alternatives

Sketching offers you the freedom to explore alternative ideas. Early in a project it’s important to see a variety of different ideas so you can choose the best option. Sketching works well for this, as you can explore those varied ideas quickly.

  • Sketching is a luxury. Most people cannot draw (or at least are convinced they cannot draw). We do it because we can.

 

  • Sketching is a great way to use time normally wasted waiting in lines or on public transportation or even meetings or lectures.

Dandy drawing

drawing, 2015

This little sketch was the basis for 3 small ceramic sculptures. It was done rapidly on whatever paper was handy. I can’t really say why this little guy so infatuated me, but sometimes it’s like that: hundreds of other sketches have value only because of the time spent on the process, practicing, and some will be wonderful drawings in their own right. But very few will serve as inspiration for other pieces.
So what does this drawing do so well? It’s very    3-D: First of all the overlap of one leg in front of the other creates the feeling that he’s walking, ie movement. The curves at the waist line and the jaw pull you circling around to the back of the fellow, the nose covering part of the eye to our right, the 3/4 head view, the angled neck muscle and the telescoping shoulder on our left all pull the eye back and around.

 

 

 

In May I will be teaching a 4-session outdoor drawing class at the New Art Center in Newtonville, MA. 

Dates: 5/10/2018 – 5/31/2018 – 4 sessions.
Time: 10:00 AM – 12:30 PM
Workshop – Michael Wilson

Fill your sketch book with drawings of life as you live it! We’ll capture the likeness and spirit of a place or scene, using local architecture, landscape and people as subject matter. Enjoy the spring weather as you practice coordinating eye, hand, and mind. Critique sessions over coffee are an important (and enjoyable) feature!

View details on this and many other great classes for adults or kids here in the NAC catalog. 

 

{*I found this in my draft folder and decided to work with it. However, in full disclosure I’m not sure I’m the author, except for the caption with “drawing 2015.” And I don’t know who the author is, but a tip of the hat to them.}
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Loving “Loving Vincent”

 

On Friday night we had friends over to watch the Oscar nominated animation  “Loving Vincent”. I recommend it. A true labor of love, over 100 artists worked for several years to create an  absolutely amazing film. Before I saw the film the first time (I’ve seen it twice), I had hope, but with reservations. I didn’t think it’d be great but I was more than satisfied, I was moved nearly to tears.

Vincent Van Gogh, Portrait of Armand Roulin, November-December 1888, Arles,

Vincent van Gogh, Portrait of Doctor Gachet, 1890 // by

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The film-makers Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman (both are credited as directors and writers) deserve a big thumbs up for creating a dynamic story line that is plausible in a historical context to tell the story of his life, using Vincent’s portraits and landscape paintings as the actors and scenes in the story. What a delight to see paintings I recognize drop into the film and start speaking and walking around.

 

 

Kobiela and Welchman, and all of the artists who worked on it, pulled off the painting style of Van Gogh magnificently. Van Gogh’s best work pulses with the life of the cosmos, (think Starry Night) whether he was painting trees, flowers, clouds or a face, the level of empathy was astonishing. Not merely describing movement, he absorbed what he saw when he was painting and he became an extension of it and it became a part of him.

The filmmakers did a brilliant job of taking advantage of how he painted, incorporating the movement of the paintbrush and paint into a driving force in the storyline, pulling us along. Taking a most logical next step: making those brush marks full of paint actually move, seems obvious now that they’ve done it. That they did it was such respect for Vincent and his art makes it a real, very loving tribute.

Loving Vincent can be seen on Amazon Prime. The film makes the case for Van Gogh having been shot accidentally by boys taunting him, rather than shooting himself, as the popular myth would have it. I heard that theory several years ago on a 60 Minutes interview with the authors of Van Gogh: The Life. Which I haven’t read, but, for what it’s worth I believe them.

 

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TC Cannon at the PEM

 

TC-Cannon-and-Me-2This past weekend Rosemary and I went to the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) to see the TC Cannon and the Georgia O’Keefe exhibits. I loved it and am really glad I saw it. I knew that Cannon was a contemporary of Fritz Scholder, one of my favorite painters, but I didn’t realize Scholder was his teacher. In fact it’s hard to talk about Cannon without referencing Scholder.

TCCannon-mural

“Epochs in Plains History: Mother Earth, Father Sun, the Children Themselves”

 

They were working the same ground – their heritage as Native Americans, with all the ramifications that went that heritage. For all the aesthetics and methods they shared, as well as potent  imagery about the world of Native Americans, Cannon’s paintings seem more particular than Scholder’s. Often Scholder would paint shamans and dancers exaggeratedly, as if they were about to fly off the canvas, and indeterminate as to what the characters looked like. Cannon’s people, even as stand-ins for spirits and medicine men, are painted as real individuals, and the paintings are visually solid. The compositions anchor the paintings, and they are meant to stay right there. These are confrontational paintings; they mean to keep you in their gaze as long as possible.

It didn’t take long at the show to feel the loss of such a gifted and determined artist. It is truly unfortunate that we’ll never know where he might have gotten to in his paintings. We know he was brave, and not only for having served in Vietnam where he garnered a pile of medals. Tommy Wayne Cannon served up images that described the injustices inflicted upon Native Americans and the legacy of that cruelty that they have  lived with, as well as the self-destruction and pride of heritage.

But by the end of the exhibit the sadness was mitigated with gratitude for the work he left us with.

TC Cannon Self Portrait

oil on canvas, 72″ x 52″, 1975

 

The Georgia O’Keefe show was primarily about her fashion sensibilities and used some of her paintings to give the clothing context. I liked it, but can’t help but echo what I’ve heard others say: “I wish there were more paintings.”

 

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Open Studios 2017

Waltham Mill Artists Open Studios is November 4th & 5th this year, and for this year I will have an assistant, the young and beautiful Iryna Khomenko in my place. Yes, I will be gone but the studio will be open. This will be the second time since I moved to the Waltham studios in 1988 that I will miss Open Studios.

As I have spent most of the past year working on sculpture rather than painting, that is what you’ll see when you come. Sculptures of Don Quixote and more specifically, his horse Rocinante. For the past couple years I’ve been making these using wooden sticks, string, plaster and wire and paper to hold them all together, but lately I’ve become intrigued with building forms using just the sticks and glue, with plaster and spackle.

So come and see for yourself.

Waltham Artist Mills Open Studio, November 4th, 5th, 12-5 PM

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The show goes on @ Gallery Voyeur

The exhibit that Rosemary and I have up in Provincetown right now – “Side By Side” is the title of the show – was originally scheduled to run to Aug 31 but has now been extended through Sept 5.  If you know you’re coming, please let us know* and we’ll be sure to be there, at Gallery Voyeur, 444 Commercial Street, Provincetown.

Michael Wilson's wall at Voyeur

Michael Wilson’s wall at Voyeur (partial view)

 

The show looks great, as you can see. The red walls came with the gallery, and while I would never have to use that color, our work shows well against it.

 

 

 

Rosemary Broton Boyle in front of "Creme"

Rosemary Broton Boyle in front “Creme”

Michael in front of 444 Commercial St, Ptown

Michael in front of 444 Commercial St, Ptown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*contact us at: 617-851-7945   ozgallery@yahoo.com

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