Eyes of the Heart

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“I shut my eyes in order to see.” Paul Gauguin (from Skinnyartist.com)

How can one create with eyes shut? Gauguin’s statement would seem to not make any sense. Does he mean painting with a blindfold on? Many paintings out there look as though they have been painted with a blindfold on. Many more look like they need to have been painted with a blindfold on. But is this to be taken literally?

Gauguin, in my opinion, is talking about the heart. Let the heart see with the heart’s eyes. That is a difficult thing to do when the brain’s eyes want to remain in control. There is the natural inclination to recreate in exact detail what is physically present.   It may be necessary to actually close the eyes to get the right visual. It may take practice. It may take concentration to let go of one set of eyes to allow the others to open.

The art of opening the heart’s eyes and allowing them to take over does not necessarily mean losing realism. The heart’s eyes are eyes of feeling, eyes of emotion. Emotion is the spark that lifts realism out of simple recreation and gives it life. Emotion is the spark of any form of art that lifts it out of boredom and lights a fire.

A blindfold is not required to paint with the eyes shut. It just takes getting in touch with the heart’s eyes. Of course, painting with a blindfold may make for new and interesting art. It could even start a new movement in “blindfold painting.” Who knows, it may become all the rage. Anything can happen when the physical eyes are closed and the heart’s eyes are open.

Bottled Sensation

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“Painting from nature is not copying the object, but realizing one’s sensations.” Paul Cezanne (from The Painters Keys)

Seasonal changes and their effects on artists are likely as different as one artist’s work is from another. Copying nature improves with practice. The tough part is the “realizing one’s sensations” part. Each season brings new and different sensations.   It takes a conscious effort to realize those sensations. Translating the realizations into art is easier said than done. Copying is not the same thing as imparting sensation into a painting.

To realize one’s sensations into art is a topic for some concentration. Opinions abound on how to get in touch with one’s senses. It’s not the practice that matters. It’s taking the time to experience the sights, the smells, the tastes, the touch, and the sounds. In spring, the new green leaves are more intensely green in the spring. The smells are freshness, new growth. The tastes are raindrops coaxing out the new growth. The touch is the softness of tender new shoots. The sounds are the breezes scattering the petals of the newly blooming flowers of the trees. Summer brings a whole new set of sensations. Fall another and winter still another.

Realizing the sensations is one thing. Translating them to art is another. One can describe sensations, talk about them, think about them. But can one put them on paper or canvas? It is a high goal. I wish someone would figure out a way to bottle it. It would be so much easier. Open a bottle of Sensation Realization and pour it over the canvas. Presto! Instant sensation. Somehow, that just doesn’t translate as anything with real feeling. It sure sounded good. One can always hope. And in the meantime, keep calm and continue painting.

Weekend Inspiration–Forging Van Gogh

 

Van Gogh’s energy, so evident in all his work, is not as easy to emulate as one might think.  Follow the Master Forger as he helps three artists try to capture Van Gogh’s energy in self portraits.  My first attempt at painting was a go at emulating Van Gogh.  While the emulation was not so successful, a love of the incredible energy of Van Gogh’s painting style sparked the passion to keep painting.

Brushing up Adventure

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“The bold adventurer succeeds the best.” Ovid (from The Painter’s Keys)

Suddenly the realization dawns that things have gone stagnant.  The same direction is going on and on, endlessly.  Everything is feeling redundant.  It’s a circle going round and round.  What can be done to stop this looming boredom?  Maybe its time to go for some bold adventuring.  How about trying a bit of whitewater rafting, at least on paper.  On paper, there’s no danger of falling out of the boat and cracking a head or other various bones on a rock.

White water rafting involves skill and good equipment.  It requires knowledge and common sense.  Most of all white water rafting requires the willingness to go for adventure. Merriam-Webster defines adventure as, “the encountering of risks.”  The risk begins by strapping on a helmet and life jacket.  Next get into the boat.  Then push the boat out into the current.  A battle to hang on ensues.  The fast water picks up the craft and begins to toss it around as it moves swiftly down the river.  The task of steering the boat away from rocks and other obstacles will take over all focus.  The adrenalin starts to flow.  An adventure is in progress.

How does adventure happen on paper or canvas?  It starts with the willingness to try something new, beginning with fresh equipment.  Choose a bold new direction and get caught up in a swift moving river of adventure. See where the fast moving water leads.  It could land in an entirely new place.  Or it could end up back at the beginning but with a fresh new infusion of energy producing adrenalin.  You never know where a white water river will take you.  Strap on a brush and go with the flow.

Sensing Sensitivity

Spanish Moss Mary Gwyn Bowen

Spanish Moss
Mary Gwyn Bowen

“Sensitivity to touch is one of the key distinctions between an artist and a person who is just using paint.” Van Waldron

Is sensitivity a key element in successful art?  Much is written about the senses and sensitivity.  Opinions are all over the board on whether sensitivity matters and whether artists and creative people are more sensitive than others.  Does it take a deeply sensitive person to create the type of art that touches the senses of the audience?  Do viewers instinctively react more forcefully to art created by the more sensitive artist?

One artist describes the feeling of acknowledging this sensitivity.  Vanessa Turner writes, “I have often felt that I was more sensitive than those around me, more affected by my surroundings and the energy of an environment than your average person.”  Artists capture what is missed by so many in the hustle and bustle of daily life.  Some would say artists are merely taking the time to stop and look around more often.  Artists spend time contemplating surroundings and therefore see more.  But that explanation is too simplistic.  Otherwise many more people would be artists.

Carolyn Edlund of the Artsyshark.com interviewed psychologist and researcher Douglas Eby of TalentDevelop.com.  Eby says “being a highly sensitive person is a trait in 15 to 20 percent of people but it seems to be much more common among artists.”  Eby quotes from an article on CNN saying “people with this trait tended to have more brain activity in the high-order visual processing regions.”   Evidently artists have more brainpower!

The highly developed sensitivity of the artist’s brain transfers into the hands of the artist and onto the art in the form of energy.  Art lacking deeply felt sensitivity is just draftsmanship. Without energy the art falls flat.  Technically correct art is without emotion.  It takes emotion to touch others.  It takes sensitivity to create emotion.  Of sensitivity, Vanessa Turner states, “It makes life beautiful.”    And that beauty is what shows up in the art.

Mossy, Knife Sharpening Green

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“All theory, Dear Friend, is gray.  But the Golden Tree of Life springs ever green.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (from Brainyquote.com)

Landscape painters, ceramists, make-up artists, soap makers and more love this mossy green pigment.  Chromium Green has been available for two centuries and has recently been discovered in the paintings of J. M. W. Turner dating to around 1812.  Few warnings accompany this lovely green paint reputed to cause only some minor skin irritation in a few people.  Those who eat it could have mild stomach upset so it is probably best not to ingest it.  Otherwise Chromium Green has a wealth of uses.Screen shot 2013-10-09 at 10.14.24 AM

Brittanica reports Chromium Green as having been discovered by French chemist Nicolas-Louis Vauquelin in 1797.    The name derives from its multi-colored compounds.  Merriam-Webster says “Chromium Green is a moderate yellow green that is greener and deeper than the average moss green, yellower and duller than the average pea green or apple green.“ “This natural green provides landscape artists rest in a summer painting saturated with vibrant greens,“ according to Daniel Smith.com. Natural Pigments.com has the scoop on the Turner discovery and is also a great source for purchasing the pigment.

While you are obtaining the pigment for mixing paint, you can also grab a bar of Chromium Green for sharpening your knives and sculpting tools.  A bit of Chromium Green in your roofing tiles will add some UV protection.  If you happen to be considering building a spaceship, Chromium Green can be mixed with other metals for “super high performing aerospace products.”  Or just add it to your camouflage for high infrared reflectance, whatever that might be.Screen shot 2014-02-13 at 10.32.24 PM

For many artists, Chromium Green is a must have for the paint box.  Mossy greens add a wonderful richness in any painting.  Chromium Green is beautiful in ceramics, as well.  Other non-artist fans of Chromium Green may be found on the rooftops fitting the tiles.  Or that spaceship your neighbor is building could feature some bits of Chromium Green in the materials but I wouldn’t get too close.  He may be guarding his spaceship in his infrared reflectant camouflage with the knives he recently sharpened on the leftover Chromium Green.  It’s probably best to stick with the people who only use Chromium Green in artist materials.  Steer clear of the ones with the spaceships and the knives.

Colorful Fridays–Soapy Violet Make-up

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“A color is as strong as the impression it creates.” Ivan Le Lorraine Albright (from Susie Gadea)

Organic mineral compounded Manganese Violet is short on talk from artists.  Few have much to say about this rich reddish purple and direct compliment of Chromium Green. Manganese Violet has been around since 1868 where it was first discovered in Germany and called Nuremberg Violet.  Winsor Newton introduced it to England in 1890. This purple hue is non-toxic and shows up in a number of unusual places.

Screen shot 2014-01-31 at 8.46.48 AMVasari Colors rates Manganese Violet as “Gemlike in mass tone” and “makes pinkish violet tints when mixed with white.”  Gamblin’s website says Manganese Violet is, “ a moderate purple that is redder and duller than Heliotrope, bluer lighter and stronger than average amethyst, bluer and stronger than Cobalt Violet, and bluer and deeper than average lilac.”  Holliday Pigments gives Manganese Violet a good semi-transparent rating.  According to Cameo.mfa.org, Manganese Violet, “has poor hiding power and has not been widely used.”

If you don’t wish to make use of your Manganese Violet pigment in paintings, it can always be used to make a nice non-toxic eye shadow.  No eye shadow?  Well, the pigment is also good for tinting hand made soap.  Gardeners will find Manganese Violet is a vital mineral in the diet of African Violets but it’s not for the color of the blooms.  Manganese Violet is essential for the healthy green color of the leaves of African Violets.  Maybe African Violet leaves are Chromium Green.

Here is a demonstration of a Manganese Violet wash:

Missing the Muse Point

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“O! For a muse of fire that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention.”  William Shakespeare (from The Painter’s Keys)

Much has been written and will continue to be written on what the muse is or isn’t.  Do all artists have one?  Is it a person?  A place? A thing?  An idea?  Many writers on art, who do not think of themselves as artists, tend to view the muse as a person.  This or that person is the muse for this or that artist.  If an artist has a love interest, the love interest is thought to be the muse.  Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.  The muse is far more and far less defined than anything physically describable.

The Wall Street Journal has an article titled, “Where have all the muses gone?” by Lee Siegel with a detailed account of the “so-called” muses of many famous artists through out the centuries.  Siegel makes a very enlightening statement midway through the article, “The original muse could not of been further from an exemplar of style.  Her function was not to inspire imitation but to create new insights and new artistic forms.  She was effectively invisible, a gust of divine wind that blew through the human vessel lucky enough to be graced by her attention.”

Perhaps, the muse is not the actual person, place, thing or idea.  Perhaps, the muse is the “Divine Wind” blowing through what is the designated muse.  The real muse is the inspiration itself.  The Divine Wind has highlighted the object with an aura of inspiration that draws like a magnet.  The Divine Wind is an amorphous thing explaining why some artists seem to flit from muse to muse gaining a reputation of fickleness.  What appears to be fickleness may merely be the following of the Divine Wind.

The Divine Wind for some artists may stay in one place or on one person for a lifetime.  To others it may blow steady in many directions.  The important point for artists is to remain open and aware.  The muse can’t be pinned down.  To place the muse label on any physical form is to miss the point.  The nebulous muse is everywhere.  All that’s needed is a bit of a windcatcher.

Colorful Fridays–Forays in Grey

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“There’s so much grey to every story-nothing is so black and white.” Lisa Ling (from Brainyquote)

A sojourn into the land of grey can be extremely painful for those who are certifiably color addicted.  Grey can quickly turn into depressing or dull or any other sad state you can think of.  Most people associate grey with negative connotations such as, “It’s a grey day.”  Or “Grey skies today.”  One of the worst associations is “Battleship grey.”  Who wants to paint a battleship?  Well, somebody might but that’s beside the point.  The connotation is still unfortunate.  These associations give the whole family of greys a bad name and especially the most widely used grey, Payne’s Grey.

Screen shot 2014-01-10 at 11.06.45 AM British watercolorist, William Payne (1760-1830), is believed to be the first artist to come up with this bluish grey, thus the name, Payne’s grey.  According to an article in Walker’s Quarterly published by Basil Long in 1922, Payne likely devised the color by blending a combination of indigo, raw sienna and lake.  Experimenting artists have come up with many combinations since to get the precise degree of bluish grey that is Payne’s grey.

Carol Gillot of the blog Paris Breakfasts states she combines ultramarine and bone black for Payne’s grey in her paintings.  Others have used combinations of Prussian blue and alizarin crimson for this particular grey. Personally, I have found the combination of viridian and alizarin crimson makes a nice Payne’s grey.  And there is always the straight stuff right out of the tube if you prefer to spend your time painting rather than mixing.

It doesn’t necessarily follow that all paintings with Payne’s grey must be negative.  A little play in the land of grey can explore new depths of shadow and form.  Painting strictly in grey can force the eye to see things that may otherwise be obscured by color.  So paint some grey skies and grey days.  Maybe even some battleships.  Have fun in the land of grey and see what happens.  Payne’s Grey could possibly break a total color addiction.  You never know, Payne’s Grey may even become a happy color.

Here are some artists doing wonderful things with Payne’s Grey:

http://keithhornblower.blogspot.com/2013/04/paynes-grey-blue-or-just-dull.html

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lorus_maver/2832181686/

Paintings by William Payne can be found at the Tate:

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/william-payne-2225

In case you want to know more things you can do with Payne’s Grey, here is a makeup artist teaching you how to create Payne’s Grey eye shadow:

The Magic of Three

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“I’ll try anything once, twice if I like it, three times to make sure.” Mae West (from Brainyquote)

Is there power in numbers? Or more specifically, is there power in the number three? If so what does that have to do with art? It just might possibly be the number of success. “Myth,” “innuendo,” “hocus pocus,” some will say but they may be dismissing a powerful ingredient for success in art. New research is proving the number three to be a very effective marketing tool. The number three appears to hold fascination for people, consciously or unconsciously.

The New York Times recently featured an article that highlighted the research (here) of Kurt A. Carlson of Georgetown University and Suzanne B. Shu of the University of California, Los Angeles. The Times sums up this research as, “A new study finds that in ads, stump speeches and other messages understood to have manipulative intent, three claims will persuade, but four, (or more) will trigger skepticism, and reverse an initially positive impression.” The study appears to prove if you want to make a positive impact do things in threes. No hocus pocus here.

If three is a powerfully persuasive number in marketing, what can it do for art? Joshua Johnson of Design Shack, says, “as a designer any time you’re faced with figuring out how to logically group items in a visual arrangement, the number three is there to help you out.” The website features a number of examples of art, design and nature where the three comes into play. In art, three can be a powerful arrangement on the picture plane. A triangular formation or groups of three items will guide the eye and draw the viewer in. Create drama and interest by the use of threes.

Hocus pocus, myth, whatever, there seems to be truth in the benefits of the number three. Threes stick in the minds of the audience. It’s definitely worth a try, after all Mae West followed this principle and everyone knows what a towering intellect she was. But whatever you do, don’t go on to the fours. Fours are a whole different story altogether. Stay with the threes. The threes have it.

Here’s more Mae West: