Monday, April 14, 2014

Old Town Warrenton Demo

The weather has finally warmed up and so I spent the weekend painting outside in  Old Town in Warrenton.
I spotted this scene earlier in the year and finally got a chance to paint it.

With buildings like this I take a little extra time with the drawing in the beginning. I know I only have about an hour and a half because the sun is moving from right to left in the scene and by that time the front of the building will be in sunlight.

Because of the angle of the light my rig is in full sunlight here. When you have a situation like this it is important to focus on the relative differences between color and value.

After the drawing I start blocking in the large masses leaving out details and focusing on the light and shadow of the scene. I go for an average of the color and value or a compliment to the secondary shapes I will add later. I try for the simplest most elegant solution to the problem. If I make the right choice my painting will look detailed from a distance and simple up close which is the effect I'm going for.

The sky started to cloud up a little so I made sure I blocked that in in case it changed too much and I lost my light completely.

Once all the big shapes are in I start on the secondary shapes within the larger masses. Painting the larger areas first gives me more information to judge the shifts between them and the smaller details. At this point I am still keeping things simple noting plane and hue changes .

The sun has started to come around the red building now but I still have enough time to clean up edges and finish the white building, railings and smallest details before the light changes completely.
The last things I do are to design the foreground bank of grasses and clover and sky and call it finished.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

2014 Armand Cabrera Workshops

I am teaching two workshops this year the first will be in Highlands North Carolina at The Bascom Center for the Visual Arts.  My workshop, Practical Solutions for Painting Anything will focus on helping artists improve their skills to translate the beauty in the world around them into paintings. The class time will be split between working in the studio and working from life.  The dates are Monday through Friday August 11 to 15; hours are 10 AM to 4 PM

In September this year I will be in Southwest Harbor, Maine at the Acadia Workshop Center   Again the focus is on both Studio and Outdoor Painting. My workshop Successful Paintings for Any Level will be 4 days Monday through Thursday September 8 - 11, hours 9 AM to 4:30 PM.

These workshops have been designed by me to make each student better at what they do, not blindly copy my style of painting. I believe each artist has a unique way of seeing the world and expressing themselves. My job and my responsibilities as a teacher are to preserve that unique expression and strengthen the students skill sets, giving them more choices to explore their creative vision. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Painting Greens

Spring is officially, if not actually here for most of the country and I thought I would talk about green paintings again.  To read my first posts on tackling green in the landscape go here.

I am going to talk about a philosophical approach to painting green which is a little different from my other posts on the subject. While this approach works for any type of painting it is particularly helpful when you are dealing with scenes that are very monochromatic in nature. Let’s talk about what can make green look different to the viewer.

Local color
The actual hue can be different between different groups of flora this just requires a little observation to confirm.

The color of the Lighting
Light coloring is a little trickier. The color of direct, ambient and reflected light can alter the appearance of greens that have the same local color.

Light Direction
It’s not just the color of the lighting that affects the appearance of things; it’s also the direction of that lighting. One of the properties of plants is their translucency which raises the saturation of the color.The angle of light will affect the hue and chroma of the green you are seeing.

Add these situations together and you can see it requires careful observation. In my opinion painting is not mimesis and good painting reveals a truth to the observer. The artist chooses the important aspects of a scene to arrive at a statement. It is that process of selection and simplification that creates a powerful artistic point of view.  Ignoring the subtle and finer effects lessens the impact of a painting. This has nothing to do with details and minutia and everything to do with sensitivity.

A good way to quickly determine some of these points is to approach viewing the landscape with the idea of geometric planes. In a broad sense the geometry of the scene in relation to the angle of the light determines how the light affects things. Add the information you have from the color of the light and the local color of objects and you have a fair starting point for deeper observation.

 Start with the lighting; this gives you a quick idea of the scene, front lighting, form lighting, rim lighting and back lighting. Then look for the division between light and shadow. Next you have the smaller divisions of ground plane, top planes, angled planes and upright planes. This underlying structure allows you to sum up the view quickly giving you more time for a more sensitive look as you paint. You are working from a broad understanding to a very refined observation of the subtle differences before you to place emphasis where it is needed.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Ten Year Anniversary

I’m coming up on my ten year anniversary of writing articles for the web. We started publishing April of 2004 with a site called  I started the actual writing that March. The site was owned by friend and fellow painter Stefan Baumann. Stefan had secured the domain but was busy with his PBS show The Grand View and wanted someone to write content for the site.
I had wanted to write about artists I admired and about the painting process. I agreed to monthly articles and limit the focus of them to outdoor painting and painting from life. I would retain the rights to all of my creative content and Stefan keep all other rights  to  the site.

We invited other notable painters to join the site and  we created free content on historical artists and articles for people looking for information about painting.  It was one of the first sites of its kind.  As the way people used the net changed the site started to show its age as a newsletter. Blogs had become popular and allowed people like me to forgo the need of a hosted domain. At the end of 2008 I had been talking to Jim Gurney about blogging and he suggested I start my own blog. I started the Art and Influence blog as a continuation of the writing I started on  I expanded my focus to include all of my interests which included illustration and studio painting not just painting from life.

It has been an interesting ten years but I feel I need to change things up some more. I am not the same artist I was ten years ago and my focus has changed along with my abilities. Social media has replaced a lot of interest that blogs and newsletters once held. There are many people doing what I do now, some better some worse; some even reusing my content, sometimes without my permission and appropriate credit. One of the side effects of success I guess.

This is where I would like some feedback. The blog still gets a substantial number of unique visitors a month, so I know people still read it. What I would like to know is what kind of content are you the reader most interested in?  As much as I have changed over the years, I assume my readership demographic has also changed.  I have some ideas where I would like to go with this but this is a very labor intensive for me. Writing does not come easy to me so if I am going to focus my efforts somewhere I would like it to have maximum impact.  So what would keep you reading the blog for another ten years? I would like to hear your comments.  You can either comment below or if you are shy you can write privately to me with suggestions.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Process versus Outcome

Armand Cabrera

I was having a discussion the other day with some people online about the importance of a degree as an artist going into the entertainment industry. It was interesting to listen to people who weren't artists or art directors give their reasons why they thought a degree was absolutely essential. My argument has always been this is misguided, especially in the arts.

Let me state clearly I am not talking about art instruction which is a separate but sometimes overlapping endeavor. I am talking about a degree. A degree is a process; the result should be a professional portfolio. It is supposed to symbolize the satisfactory completion of a curriculum under the instruction of a master. Its veracity depends on its results, not on the degree itself. Others will make the argument that a degree shows a level of ability to follow through on something. If the portfolio is lacking doesn't it also show the inability to determine what a waste of time it was? It can’t be both. Only the outcome matters.

To assume that getting a degree gives you a professional portfolio ignores the facts and anecdotal reports from professional artists themselves. Most of whom claim they learned nothing or very little in art school and that their real learning came afterward.  If this is true then its time to re-evaluate a degree in the arts.

With the commercialization of higher education and changes in lending practices by the banking industry prospective artists need to carefully consider what they are getting into when they take on large amounts of debt. Hard to do when you are in your late teens to early twenties and you have no or little experience with such matters. This is where councilors and advisers really need to step up and give good advice about the current economic climate and not just tow the corporate line to put money back into the institutions coffers.

The internet allows people interested in a profession like art to interact with professionals in an unprecedented way. Sites like PACT (TheProfessional Artist Client Toolkit) even provide contract templates and general price structures for interested parties in the science fiction fantasy illustrators, Video Game and entertainment, table top gaming, and comic book industry.

Online help through social media can give savvy students free access to critiques and opinions across a broad set of disciplines and experience. Portfolios of these pros are freely available to view and help the decision making process about who knows their stuff and who doesn't. Beyond the free advice there are numerous opportunities for paid instruction for a fraction of the cost of a big school

In the end, it is important to keep your focus on acquiring a professional portfolio.  Careful consideration must be used to keep from saddling students with tens of thousands of dollars of debt which according to most studies, they won’t pay off until their 40’s or later. This delays starting a family, home purchases and retirement provisions all of which help provide security to an already difficult career as an artist.