Website Update.

I promised everyone an update on the Website. There was a small up-tick in traffic immediately after the ask but it’s back to normal again. I’m not really disappointed because I didn’t think it would make a huge difference.


Sketching before Painting

I don’t usually sketch before I paint. I don’t consider sketching with a brush on the painting panel the same thing as an elaborate pencil sketch, because that is just to get the image and approximate locations onto the panel. I’m referring to a completely separate sketch with pencil to help decide exactly how the painting is going to look. I regularly paint from photographs but sometimes I just don’t have a photograph that suits me. That is what is happening with this latest painting. I have an idea and apparently it’s a pretty completely formed one because I can’t find a photograph that is close. So I’m going to start sketching.

The sketches are very rough and quick, something that I can do faster than painting and toss away afterwards. I’ve completed several of them and ‘completed’ is a misleading term. I’ve gotten just far enough on each one to answer some issue. Clearly the idea I have is not complete enough, so much so that when I went to the store to buy a new panel I selected a square rather than a rectangular format. The biggest problem I faced was placing the subject vertically in the sketch. I’m hoping that a square format will simplify this problem; some might describe it as avoidance. I will see how sketching with a brush goes on the square panel. I think the next problem will be where to put the horizon line.

If I’m standing in the public house looking down on the subject, then the horizon line should be placed lower than vertical centre. I’ve got to be careful not to place it too low because I think that will skew the perspective on the furniture and the items on the table.


Is Art An Inherited Trait?

I don’t know; however I call myself an artist, my oldest daughter is an artist, my youngest has a good eye and is very talented as is my wife. It’s interesting that my oldest daughter paints and I paint; my wife’s talent lies in crafts and my youngest daughter is a photographer. I don’t know which side my daughters get their talent from. On my wife’s side of the family there are some good dancers.

I keep hearing of others in my extended family that have also been artists although not professionally. There are quite a few of them and it makes me think that there must be something in my family’s gene pool that makes art enjoyable. Maybe if you have an uncle or aunt who call themselves artists it is more likely that your mother and father will take you seriously when you want to draw and paint.

I’m not convinced that ‘Talent’ is inherited although many would disagree. I believe that anyone can draw but many may not enjoy it; if someone enjoyed playing music then perhaps they would become a musician. It’s interesting that musicians ‘play’ but engineers ‘build’. I wonder if all languages make this distinction? I think it is the potential for enjoyment that is inherited not the capability to draw. Enjoyment is a much more subtle and perhaps powerful thing than is ‘talent’ or ‘capability’.

So I think it’s not the ability to draw that is inherited but rather the enjoyment of drawing that might be inherited. If you enjoy it you will do more of it and get better to the point that you might wow others looking at your art.


This is an excerpt from an art book I put together. You can get it FREE on my Web site or use this link. The image that you see with this post is the under-colour I’m going to use with this painting.

I’d like to inspire people to do more art. Everything that is initially created starts out
utilitarian. Why not add some artistry? A painting has very little utility except as a mural. Many things have very little artistry. It’s difficult for some people to imagine a chair having any artistry. It could be artistically embellished but can the design itself be artistic. Engineers talk about some designs being elegant. Search ‘elegant design’ in Google and what you get is 19th century floral designs. If the design is simple but does its job exceedingly well then I think it can be characterised as elegant. Given this definition then even a well-designed hammer can be elegant. I have a couple of hammers that I would describe as elegant. And I think elegant design is artistic.

I believe everyone is capable of art. It might be painting, woodwork or paper lamp
shades but it is art. Some like to differentiate between fine art, like painting, and artisan
work like building books and wooden furniture. I believe it’s all the same, however I’ll
grant you that some of it is more useful than others. Everyone needs a chair but few desire a painting. Everything can benefit from some modicum of art and design.

This book is about how I paint and what materials I use. It’s more important that you do it than what materials you do it with. There is very little that I use today that I used 50 years ago, of course things wear out and need to be replaced but I often replace them with different things. The moral of this story is to buy cheap until you know what you want. The best thing I can say about a hammer is that it takes a very long time to wear out.


My Site

Anyone Can Paint

People often tell me that they can’t draw. I tell them that anyone can draw. They usually stop talking to me at that point. Would they prefer that I say that I belong to a very elite group of people who can actually put pencil to paper and draw lines that represent reality? Would they prefer that I tell them that I agree that they can’t draw and there is no use trying?

I believe that anyone can draw and paint but they just don’t want to. People tell me that “of course they want to, but they just can’t”. I think people have no idea what they can or can’t do, but they have a very good idea what they want to do. It is perfectly reasonable that people do not want to draw and paint. I find it very satisfying but there is no reason that they should. People are often amazed by my paintings and I am often equally amazed by what they do. If they really want to do something then they likely can but they need to want to enough to go through the learning process.

Highlights and Shadows

This is not the first time I’ve noticed difficulty matching highlights and shadows but it’s more apparent when I’m working from my monitor. Monitors use an additive colour method but I paint from a printed image; both paint and print are subtractive. I refer back and forth from the print to my monitor so the difference tends to cancel out a little. I don’t usually work directly from the monitor because some colours are impossible to replicate and the result is a little disheartening. I refer to the monitor but then use a printout when I’m painting. I know that some colours are better on the monitor than they are on the print and I try to compensate, so the painting looks better than the print when I’m done; which feels good.

I have access to a photo printer or I could use the photographic settings on my cheap little printer but why bother when I can occasionally look at the monitor. The time it actually takes me to get to painting is enough that I can no longer remember the exact colours but I do try and sometimes get it fairly close. If I had a Mantis Shrimps eyes then maybe I could but it’s not possible with human eyesight.

The result of all of this is the monitor image does not match the painting. In particular the contrast is off significantly. As a result I’m looking at the painting and seeing much less contrast. I tend to ignore the actual colours but they are also significantly off as a result of the different methods of rendering colour. One method I’ve found to increase the apparent contrast in the painting was developed (I believe) during the renaissance. This method is similar to Unsharp Masking in Photoshop. The bright areas increase in brightness as they approach the dark areas and the same treatment is applied to the dark areas. This is usually a dark line in the dark areas and a light line in the bright areas applied just at the separation. Since I want the areas to appear sharper I switch to a smaller brush and add thin dark and light lines to various areas of the image. This seems to make the image ‘POP’ and increases the reality illusion.

I’ve included a detail of the painting I’m working on to show where I’ve used this technique. Some paintings don’t require it.



I always need to work up to the highlights. The first time I put them in they are never bright enough. I know that because humans lost the ability to determine absolute brightness a long time ago. We don’t need it for survival but it would sure be handy when painting. I wish I had eyes like the Mantis Shrimp.

On second thought I have enough trouble choosing and matching colours now, with a Mantis Shrimps colour range and visual capabilities it would be much more difficult.

Are You A Mathematician?

Rather a bizarre title for an art-blog entry. As an artist I don’t think I need to know much about Math but unfortunately I find it very interesting. I don’t think it’s unfortunate but many others do. My daughters tease me about it constantly and I try really hard not to point out that they are equally geeky but in different ways. My wife generally finds it amusing.

Read the first paragraph. If you have read the articles mentioned then you are a mathematician. If you are just interested then maybe you are an artist. If they have no interest for you, you can still be an artist according to my daughter.

Randomness and Clumping

Random is a misnomer. When I think of random I think of clouds, leaves on trees and white caps on waves. These are not random, at least they aren’t what most people consider random. Many people think of random as perfectly and evenly distributed.

Fractals use a lot of Random numbers but Fractals themselves are not Random. Clouds for example are quite Random, however if we are using them in a picture they are less random, they are restricted to the area of the picture that we have designated as sky. Fractals do a great job of mimicking the world around us and they use lots of random numbers. Close up they are really random but zoom out to see the entire picture and like the clouds restricted to sky, they become less random.

One of the basic traits of randomness is clumping. If you generate a truly random set of numbers and use them to simulate clouds, for example, you will notice that the numbers/clouds tend to clump together.

A good explanation of randomness;

One of the most used examples of randomness is background radiation. A sample of background radiation is used in many things that require a set of random numbers. A good example of background radiation is noise on your TV set or on your radio; set the frequency between stations. This method of generating random numbers is used because it’s really difficult to generate a set of truly random numbers.

So after all of this highly technical discussion, how can an artist use it?

When I am painting leaves I purposely clump them a little. When I look at a tree I see that the leaves are occasionally clumped together. They are not sticky or attached, they just clump. Take two steps to the right or left and the clumps will change location, but they will still be clumped. Many other things that I paint have similar behavior. So if I want to make an area of a painting look real I try to clump components. I use this idea to good effect in many paintings. A portrait for example you wouldn’t think of having any random components but with hair I use the same technique I use in leaves and it seems to work.