December Savings Art Show

Thumbnails, The Key to Better Painting and Drawing

Art Tip
Using Thumbnails for Planning Compositions
Thumbnails are small quick sketches. These sketches aren’t to record details, forms or depth they are for planning out the elements of your compositions and designs.
Design and composition are terms that people use a lot and they have a lot in common. Design is used to express the overall ideas of you image. Will your image be symmetrical or Asymmetrical. These basics ideas of balancing you objects. To balance something on an see saw or older day scale you need at least two objects. It’s the same with an image you need more than one shape or group of shapes to achieve some type of balance. This is the basic idea of design
Just like before building a house or writing a book you need a planning stage. For artist this planning stage takes the form of thumbnail sketches.
These need to be done quickly so we can move onto execution of our painting or drawing. We you are outside painting or drawing landscapes this can be especially important, because the light changes so quickly.
Thumbnails are very primitive. They contain only the most fundamental information about our subject. They could even be a basic as squares, ovals, triangles just enough so we know what these shapes represent.
When deciding on a design they are four decisions to make. Should my drawing or painting be
1. Analogous – Where the vertical and horizontal movements or lines are used.
2. Complementary – Where Diagonals are emphasized
3. Symmetrical – Where the main shapes are of similar size on either side of the picture plane.
4. Asymmetrical – Where the main shapes are of very different sizes. Such as Large shapes on one side smaller on the other.
By making these decisions on how to design your art you will have stronger and more interesting artworks. Below I have included the four examples of Design.
Analogous Design

Complementary Design

Symmetrical Design

Asymmetrical Design

These drawings are very simple but more importantly they tell me how I am going to approach the drawing or painting. Next time before you start on your drawing or painting start by using thumbnails to plan things out do 4 or 5 and pick out your favorite. Then do it you will enjoy your results even more by creating a plan.

To Find Other Drawing Insights click Drawing Tips

How-To: Quality Art Supplies for Less

paints and pallette small

Where to Buy Art Supplies and save Money

Yes, that title was read correctly. While the differences aren’t colossal, the differences add up as project after project after projects require supplies. And the less you pay for those supplies, the more of the money you actually make can be used for that other stuff…like… food.

Back in the day, the main options you had were either mail order or retail. Now, thanks to the internet, these aren’t your only two options. In fact, the internet is a fantastic resource for wholesale art supplies.

Wholesale is different from retail in one crucial way: you don’t have a business that needs to make enough to both buy more supplies (plus shipping and handling) and then pay for other things, like employees, all while trying to turn some sort of profit.

Another bonus about buying online: no gas money on your part has to be spent driving to the nearest store! Instead, one can order quickly within a small series of clicks and after the appropriate amount of time…voila! There are the needed supplies at your door for your next few projects.

Some places I personally like to go to are
1. Jerry’s Artarama
2. Dick Blick
3. Utrecht

How-To: Collect Art

creamsicle butte final

What to Look for When Buying Art


When buying art as an investment, there are a few things to keep in mind.

We’ve all heard stories about people who collect art and have it appreciate significantly over the years. Like the two married postal workers who collected art over a lifetime, whose collection is now valued at tens of millions of dollars. This couple basically collected what they liked and in the end it paid off. Their buying wasn’t random this couple took a smart approach to buying original art. They collected from artists early in their career, who were professional artists. Therefore, they paid lower prices. These young artists ended up becoming serious names in the art world. So this couple bought artwork they liked from professionals and their artwork increased significantly in value.
Disclaimer *Always Collect what you Like*

The first thing about collecting artwork is collect what you love and what you want in your home. Never try to collect artwork with plans of is being purely an investment. It’s always a gamble. Also this is not an article for high end art investment. That involves art experts, ten of thousands of dollars(many times much more) and a lot of nerve. This article is for those people who want original artwork on their walls that also might grow in it’s value.  That begin said there are common traits among artworks that appreciate with time. Below are some things to look for when buying.

What to look for in Artwork

Here are just a few of the questions to ask yourself when buying artwork.

  • Is the Artwork Original?
  • Where do I go to buy?
  • What am I looking for?
  • What do I want to collect?
  • What will appreciate?
  • Edition size is that a factor?

Let’s discuss a strategy to use when buying artwork that will increase in value.

Collect from Professional Artists

Discovered artists are those with a professional career, then for whatever reason, their work becomes highlighted and the prices for their artwork takes off. Understand that artists who are “discovered” aren’t hobbyists selling their art for pennies on the dollar at the local craft fair. Collect from professional artists, not hobbyists, if you hope to have a return on your investment. With reputable artists you will be able to search on the internet. Establish that they have a career and have been working. Bottom line always buy artwork from professionals.

The Collectibility Factor

A good example of collectibility and artwork appreciating with time is the artist Maynard Dixon. Dixon was never an unknown artist. He was always a known, working professional recognized in circles on both the east and west coast. He passed away and his painting had appreciated though his lifetime modestly. However in the last 35 years, the prices for his paintings have gone through the roof and he has more recognition among general art collectors.

Quality equals Collectibility

Professional artists are your best bet to guarantee their work has quality that can be recognized in the future.The opportunity to buy art is everywhere over the last few decades: art fairs, on the Internet, etc. With so many opportunities to buy art, how do we know if an artist is a professional?

Tips for verifying if an artist is a professional:

  • Do an internet search. (Use your smart phone if you’re at a fair.) If it’s a professional artist, they should be mentioned in several places on the internet.
  • Ask if the artist has a website. If not, that could be a red flag.
  • Ask the artist about their career and what they’ve done. Many artists like to exaggerate their accomplishments. Try to verify online.
  • Ask the artist about gallery representation. Who carries his or her work?
  • Did the artist receive professional training to be an artist?

These questions can quickly establish a working career artist from a hobbyist.

Buy Originals Art or High-Value Prints

We hear from several sources we should buy original art, whether as a potential future investment or as part of a determination to live life fully. Original art is art that is one-of- a- kind or part of an edition of hand pulled fine art prints(woodcuts, linotypes, etchings and engravings).

Paintings are easier they are normally one of a kind. Sculptures and fine art hand pulled prints come in editions of varying numbers. When looking at artwork that is part of an edition to, the size of the print run does matter. You want limited, numbered print runs. Scarcity creates value. You see this on Antiques Roadshow or other auctions. You see schoolbooks from the 17th century brought in to be appraised. To the dismay of the owners, the books aren’t worth very much because there are so many of them available.

Age does not equal value. These are over 100 year old books that aren’t worth anything. Age doesn’t automatically increase an object’s value.

On the flip side, in auction you might see an early 20th century child’s toy in mint condition where there’s only two or three left and they’re worth thousands of dollars.

Scarcity creates value

When buying art that’s in an edition, you always want low numbered editions.  Print sizes of about 200. The lower the number of images in an edition, the more likely that image will hold value. An edition with 1 to 10 prints is more likely to hold value than 1 to 250. 1 to 20,000 has no value.  Remember the scarcity creates value principle: the less there are in existence, the more it is worth.

Remember it’s okay to buy prints with larger editions, but buy it because you like it, not because you expect it will have value.

Be aware of Giclées prints. These type of prints can be original artwork, limited edition runs of some value, worthless knockoffs, or mass produced posters. So buy these with the expectation of them being art you like not art that will appreciate with time.

Buy what you like

Always buy what you like. As with the stock market, you never know what’s going to happen to the value of your painting. There’s no guarantee of huge returns.

If you buy from a hobbyist because you love the artwork, that’s fine. Always buy because you like it. Just understand it likely won’t have any resell value. It’s just like buying travertine tiles and installing them in your house: you’re doing it because you like it but you won’t be able to pull it up and resell it.

It’s worth repeating: always buy what you like.

You get what you pay for.

When you’re dealing with a professional working artist, there is a minimum price point to look for. To run a business takes money; for operating expenses, materials cost, travel expenses, and all the other costs that go into creating custom work. A price of say $800 for an 18×24 is lowest you can expect to pay for a professional artist. . Less than that price range is most likely a hobbyist. You will have to spend more money if you want art that’s going to appreciate in value.

Art doesn’t appreciate over night

Remember it takes time for artwork to build in value. It won’t happen overnight. Like investments it is a long term venture. So use these tips we have discussed and you will be likely to have artwork that will appreciate in value and bring you lots of enjoyment.

Six More Plein Air Painting Tips

More Plein Air Painting Tips


Painting outdoors has many benefits as well as many challenges. Below are six tips that will help you be successful as you plein air paint. Practice these as you paint and you will improve your plein air painting.

1. Simplify the Scene

With plein air painting it’s so overwhelming with all the detail of the outdoors. So look for the basic ideas of the scene basic shapes, size relationships and value relationships. Try to simplify the values to four or fewer for any one object. Don’t try to capture every little detail look for the large general shapes and larger families of smaller shapes not individual blades of grass or leaves that is just too much information. Below are a couple examples of simplified scenes. Notice clear they are even though they are very simple.

2. Blurring Your Vision to Simply

Squint your eyes to blur your vision. When you blur your vision it’s easier to see the main shapes and ignore the distracting details. Learning to simplify is vital to painting outdoors. Blurring your eyes to see the main shapes and value is the first step to learning to simplify. Below is pictured some photos that I loaded into a program and changed them to simplify the scenes. Even without a lot of details these are very powerful images. We want learn to do this for ourselves out in the field.

3. Positive negative shape drawing

Using a sharpie or marker and a sketch book practice creating drawings using just black and white. This exercise will help you more than any other to learn to simplify shapes which will make your paintings stronger. Below is an example of drawings done in just black and white. It takes some getting used to but will help your painting immensely.

4. Daylight is Bright Don’t Let it Overwhelm Your Painting

Daylight is so strong that many times when you paint you think your painting is very bright and colorful but then you take the painting indoors and the painting turns dark and lifeless. This is because there is so much light outdoors even a cloudy day has 30% more light than a room indoors. Outdoor your paintings will look colorful and full of contrast. Inside the contrast fades as well as the intensity of the colors. To avoid this use an umbrella to shade your painting and color mixing palette. If you don’t have an umbrella set up your easel with your painting surface and color palette against the sun so it is in shadow. You need to bump up the the contrast in your painting and the brightness of the colors.

5. Keep Your Painting Small

Keeping your painting small will allow you to establish the values and color in your painting quickly. With the light constantly changing you need to establish the values and colors in about 30 minutes and then work the painting as needed. This is very challenging by itself. Keeping your canvas size small will allow to move quicker. So when you start painting outdoors keep you sizes small like 8” x 10” or 9” x 12”. As you get more comfortable painting you can increase the size of your canvases. Below is one of small 12″ x 9 ” paintings I did at the Grand Canyon.







6. Constantly Compare You Values and Colors

When painting establish early in the painting process the lightest color in your painting and the darkest color in your painting and then constantly refer to those two colors asking yourself if the values of your other colors are closer to the lightest or darkest value and how close is it to one or the other. By asking yourself about every color as you put it on your painting you will find you will have a larger range of values. Constantly compare your color’s hues if I have a tree that is green as the green becomes lighter and darker how does it shifts bluer, yellower, duller or brighter. Continuing to ask yourself these questions will help to become more sensitive to color shifts and improve your painting.

Six Plein Air Painting Tips

Six Tips for Painting Outdoors in the Landscape
AKA Plein Air Painting

seguaro ranch students, ad

1. Take Only What You Need
When painting outdoors you want to take only the necessary items. The fewer paints, brushes, paint thinner, and so forth will keep your gear lighter and help you to have a better experience painting outdoors. Remember it’s not just about art supplies you also need to take water, bug repellent, sun screen, food, trash bags, hand clamps (to clamp you paint thinner container to your easel), screw driver(to tighten up and adjust your easel), pliers(to loosen the caps on paint tubes), and trash bags.

2. Simplify Your Palette
Limiting your color palette helps to keep your equipment light. I use just eight colors: Cadmium Yellow Lemon, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Cadmium Red Light, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Phalo Blue, Ivory Black and Titanium White. Learning to use this palette you will be able to mix a full range of colors.

3. Leave without a Trace
While Painting you use a lot of paper towels to keep you brushes clean. As landscape painters we enjoy the landscape. So we want to keep the landscape enjoyable for everyone. You always want to take out of the landscape what you take into it. So use your trash bags and make sure you are leaving no trace once you leave the landscape.

4. Bring a Camera to Take Reference
It’s always a good idea to take a camera with you. Painting on location is great for capturing the light and mood of the landscape. Photographs are great for capturing the details of the landscape. Then if you need to finish the painting in studio you have the photo to use as reference.

5. Use Easily Portable Cases to Transport Supplies
A good pochade box is worth it’s weight in gold, these small easels are light and easy for more remote excursions and locations. If you aren’t going far or to remote locations a french easel is a wonderful alternative they are far more stable than pochade boxes and you can pack most all of your supplies inside the easel, though they aren’t as light as pochade boxes. These compact easels and painting boxes are essential to paint outdoors.

6. Wear Sunglasses When Painting
Your eyes are your most important asset so you should protect them. The bright sunlight over the years can seriously affect your vision. Though some people wear hats to keep the sun out of their eyes, a hat doesn’t always solve the problem so I wear sun glasses. When I paint I don’t look through the sunglasses because the glasses change the colors and values of the landscape. So I usually hang the sun glasses off the end of my nose so I can look over the top of them. This way I keep the direct sunlight out of my eyes and I still am able to see the accurate colors and values of the landscape.

These tips will help you to have a wonderful experience when you go outside to paint.

Improve Your Painting, Avoid 5 Common Mistakes

5 Ways to Improve Your Paintings,
Mistakes to Avoid

1. Not Covering the Entire Canvas with
before Finishing off Areas
You can’t see the value and color relationships in a painting unless all the general color and values already on the canvas. Just as it is hard to tell if a recipe works without all the ingredients combined together. Here are the general steps to a painting.
1. Start by drawing in the basic contours of your subject with either charcoal or a neutral paint color.
2. Once the drawing is done using thin paint(about the consistency of heavy cream) cover the main areas and shapes with accurate values and colors.
3. Blur your vision look for the basic light value and color along with the dark value and color of each area and object. Once the entire canvas is covered you can more accurately access which value and colors need to change and which ones may stay the same.
4. Once the painting is roughed in, work on the painting as a whole.
5. Whether you are doing abstract, non-objective, representational or hyper realism this is the best way to start your painting.

2. Using Thick Paint too Quickly
Don’t put the paint down too thickly or too quickly. It is very hard to control even by a very experienced artist. Start with thin paint. Artists that create thick paintings don’t start out painting in thick paint. In fact except with a few exceptions all paintings start with thin layers of paint. Each successive layer of paint is built up thicker and thicker until the surface is as thick as the artist wants. If you paint too thick early on you will end up fighting the paint and it will be almost impossible to get the subtlety you want and can end with a painting that is overworked. If you have the paint too thick and you can’t work with it take off the excess paint. Scrape it down with a palette knife and start again. Many times scraping can be a great way to regain control of your painting so don’t be afraid to scrape away paint when it is necessary and then go back into the area and repaint it.

3. Using too Much White
Using white paint incorrectly can lead to pasty color mixtures. Pasty lifeless color mixtures is one of the most common problems beginning oil painters have when they paint with oils. The problem arises because they overuse white. White paint is necessary in order to mix literally thousands of colors however you only want to use it as needed. Many new artists reach for the white paint first. It should be one of the last things to reach for when creating your lighter color mixtures. Remember when you use white it causes your paint mixture to lose intensity and shift slightly cooler. The best way to avoid lifeless color mixtures is to use this basic approach to your color mixtures.
1. Mix your colors together to get the hue of the color first(using as few paints as possible)
2. Lower the intensity of your color mixture as needed afterwards
3. If the color mixture needs to be lightened then add white.
Tip: Also never use white and black in the same mixture as a beginning painter.

Doing these things will help you to mix bright clean colors.

4. Focusing on Details not Form Shadowing

Almost every person when they start to learn oil painting makes this mistake. It’s hard not to fixate on the little details but, that is exactly what we do. We jump right in and try to define every one of those wonderful details and for some reason it never turns out right. We need to start with the correct form shadows. Remember those little details need to be on top of a layer of correct values and colors. So when you begin painting use the following procedure.
1. Start with the basic light and dark values and colors of your object.
2. Then continue to modify your colors and values to include the light tones, middle values, highlight, core shadow(if it has one), dark tones and reflected light.
3. Once you have all those form shadows defined then you add the small details. Details need to conform to an objects form shadowing.

Doing this will allow you to paint convincingly.

5. Using Too Small of a Brush
When we first begin to paint it’s hard not to be intimidated. This usually leads to grabbing a smaller brush. It seems much less intimidating. This is probably the biggest mistakes beginning painters make. Using small brushes in the beginning instead of larger brushes. It creates a couple of problems first you add considerably more time to finishing your painting. Secondly when you paint using smaller brushes you miss larger relationships. So next time you find yourself reaching for that small brush go large instead. if you start with large brushes, then transition to medium size brushes and end with small brushes you will have a   greater variety of marks which will give your painting more visual impact.

Five Ways to Improve Your Drawings

Another 5 Tips to Strengthen Your Drawings
By popular demand I am including another 5 ways to improve your drawing.

1. Loosen Up- Drawing shouldn’t be stiff,  it should be “controlled” when starting out the differences can seem like double talk but it’s not. Try holding your pencil further towards the back and using your whole arm, elbow or wrist. You will be looser with your marks you have to be, also try keeping your hand off the paper. These two things will help you to “loosen Up”. Also don’t be afraid to try several times to get the line right. It can seem strange but you’ll have a better chance of finding the right line. It’s a little like winning a raffle the more tickets you have the better your chance of winning.

2. Look for Basic Shapes- I am sure everyone who has taken my drawing is rolling their eyes at this one. I know I mention it time and time again. Because it’s that important, every time I am having a problem with my drawing I always start by reassessing the basic shapes and observing the objects to see if the basic shape relationships are accurate. We are very adept at seeing shapes and everything can be simplified into basic shapes, squares, rectangles, triangles, cones, cylinders and spheres. It is effective approach and it will help you every time you simplify things into basic shapes.

3. Have Definite Areas of Light, Medium and Dark Values- Value is such a powerful tool but sometimes it is hard to create and control. Whenever you have a drawing that seems to lack any visual impact ask yourself if the drawing has a full range of values. Every drawing should have definite areas of dark values, middle values and light values. If not it will look flat. Every individual object should also have definite areas or planes of dark medium and light. By increasing the range of values your drawings will be much more powerful.

4. Ignore the Details- Too many times we are fooled or distracted by details. As a beginner it’s hard not to focus on details entirely. It’s tempting to jump in and try to render every last detail with absolute fervor. Unfortunately if you try to work this way you will end getting lost in the details and end up with a poor drawing. The reason is you missed the “big picture”. This doesn’t mean to not include details it means in the beginning look to the “Big Picture”. You do that by sticking to the basics which always starts with the shadowing of an object.  For example: If I was drawing a tennis ball I would start with a sphere that was properly shaded with all the “form shadows” in place. Once I had done that I would begin to add the details. The details have to conform to the “form shadows” of the object. After you have you basic shading you can begin to hint at details instead of trying to draw every single fuzzy on the tennis ball. Working this way will give an amazingly convincing drawing.
Ignoring the details at the start of a drawing is one of the most important concepts in drawing! Take landscape drawing as an example. Even the most detailed of landscape drawings have left out tons of details. There just isn’t enough time in 6 months to add every detail to a landscape drawing. Instead artists focus on shapes and “form shadows” to describe their landscape. The same thing applies to whatever you draw. Look below at the drawing. It is very clear and has implied details but it is more about the shading than the minute details.

5: Learn to Deal with Ellipses- Ellipses, which is a circle foreshortened in perspective, are some of the hardest things for a beginner and even an experienced artist. Here are a couple of things to remember. When drawing ovals.
1. No matter how tight or pinched the oval is the ends should be rounded not pointed.
2.  Use a rule or straight edge to make sure the oval is lined up corner to corner.
3. Use a line through the center of the oval to help yourself as you draw an oval.
Use these three tips to practice, practice and practice some more.

5 Most Common Drawing Mistakes

5 Most Common Drawing Mistakes
When you are starting out with anything there is a learning curve. There are common mistakes that all beginners make that can slow down your progress with drawing. Don’t worry everyone makes these mistakes the important thing is to break these tendencies so your drawings will improve.

1. Too Much Pressure on Your Pencil
When you are using your pencils be careful not to use too much pressure. If you push too hard you will destroy the texture of the paper. This will be very noticeable in your drawing. It also makes it more difficult to control your drawing if you want to modify the area where the texture has been destroyed.
To preserve the texture of the paper use light pressure. No more pressure than you would use with a stylus on the surface of a smart phone. If you use less pressure and take more time building up your values you will have more control over your drawing in general.

2. Not Using Rich Darks
It takes time with graphite to establish rich darks (not a challenge with charcoal). Learning to see and increase the value range in your drawing will help your drawings have more visual impact and more depth. Sometimes fear of going too dark can keep us from establishing rich values. However if you use a light touch and know how to use your erasers this will not be a problem.

drawing light too light

3. Outlining Everything in Your Drawing
Nothing will kill the depth in a drawing quicker than outlining everything. If you use hard lines to outline everything, you will destroy the illusion depth. There are times when you use lines to create value for reasons of style such as cross hatching, but as a beginner we usually rely on outlines instead of value to separate and define objects. Look instead for “edges”. Edges are created by the value of a particular shape in context to another shape. Example of the outside of the bag where it touches the darker shadow shape of the wall creates the edge of the bag in the drawing.

paper bag drawingsm

4. Using the Wrong Paper
If you are having problems with your drawing it could be the paper. If you are using cheap printer paper you are going to have a harder time getting a decent drawing. How thick the paper is makes a difference. Thickness of paper is measured by pounds or lbs. Usually for drawing paper you want something that is 70 lbs or higher. Paper texture is also a factor for beginning students find paper that had a medium texture. If it is art drawing paper it will list on the drawing pad or roll or paper of what texture it has. Avoid smooth or plate surfaces because they have no texture the marks of your pencil show the slightest variation making smooth values difficult. Also with smooth papers you can’t get deep values. Medium texture or other medium textures like bristol will work the best


5. Using Scribbled Lines instead of Value and Shapes
Many times when we find something difficult to draw with lots of details it can overwhelm us. A good example is drawing Trees. The first time I tried to draw trees my brain turned off and I instead began using scribbling instead of good drawing decisions about shapes and values, it was easy to just scribble in a little something to represent the leaves. This is a mistake everyone makes when drawing detailed objects. Whenever you find yourself just scribbling in stuff look back at you object blur your vision and try to find a definite shape and a definite value. Then put that down on your paper. You will find your drawings will improve by leaps and bounds when you do this.