Bird & Sunrise photo

Bird & Sunrise photo
Because "someday" is today!

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Exploring, Art Nouveau Style

Triple challenge for February! Design a birthday card in Art Nouveau style featuring a yellow and purple color scheme...

Art Nouveau inspired kitten and hearts painting. ©2019 Tina M.Welter
"Little Bear Hug" 5x7 inches, acrylic on paper ©2019

What in the world would persuade me to attempt such a challenge? First of all, I'm learning that having limitations can be a great opportunity. Limitations push us to think more creatively by shaking us out of our usual way of making art. 

When my dear friend Gayle challenged her blog readers last month to try painting in an art style which inspires us, I knew exactly what I wanted to try. Pick Your Passion - The Full Circle Studio

I've admired the Art Nouveau movement for over 30 years. Pronounced [noo] + [voh] it simply means "new art" which is kind of funny since it seems like old art to us now, but I digress. This wonderfully decorative style flourished from around 1890 to 1910 and featured repetitive motifs, curved lines and celebrated nature. Favorite subjects were flowers, plants, dragonflies and the female form. If you have marveled at the famous stained glass lamps designed by the many artists employed at Louis Comfort Tiffany's glass-works, then you are acquainted with an American interpretation of this style. 

I suppose it is no surprise that an art form focused on flowers and curving lines would resonate with me, but it is one thing to appreciate something and quite another to figure out how to make it yourself. Of course I went straight to the artwork of the master himself, Alphonse Mucha, to see what I could learn. Scroll all the way down the page at the link above and you will see a small selection of his wonderful artwork.

Poster of Sara Bernhardt as Gismonda, 1895 Alphonse Mucha - public domain
 Gismonda poster 1895 

In 1890, Mucha began supporting himself as an illustrator in Paris. His dream as an artist was to create epic historical paintings, but illustrating for magazines paid the bills. An amazing opportunity knocked on his door in December 1894 when he was asked to create a poster on a super short deadline for Sara Bernhardt. The publisher wanted it to appear on the streets of Paris on January 1, 1895. Alphonse designed the poster above and it created a sensation, which pleased Miss Bernhardt so much that it lead to a nice six year contract for Mucha.

What I think is brilliant about this poster is how effectively it uses design to convey a hierarchy of information. What key information do we get at a glance? The name of the play, the actress and the theater where she is appearing. "Gismonda, Bernhardt, at the Theatre Renaissance" All the important facts, boom, done. Designers today would say that is an obvious visual strategy, but I don't think it was common to design that way back then.

If we have a few moments to look closer, we can gather even more information. The mosaic tiles at the top of the poster as well as the dress Miss Bernhardt is wearing suggests Byzantine style. The play is set in 1450 Athens, at the very end of the Byzantine era. The cross behind her head and the palm branch she holds reference Christian religious beliefs that are an important part in the play. Every visual element has something to communicate.

I also noticed the simplicity of the palette. Variations on the primary color blue with it's secondary compliment, orange. These choices may have had to do with printing cost limitations, I honestly don't know, but they certainly add to the visual style. 

Sara Bernhardt in Gismonde costume, 1896 photo by Theobold Chartran - public domain
1896 photo of Sara Bernhardt by Theobold Chartran

The inspiration for my Art Nouveau artwork came from my cousin Mary who adores her cats. She sent me this photo with the tag line "HAVE A HUG! And two hearts for you!! (Little Bear's and mine!)" 

Blackish brown kitten cuddled up contendedly with her owner.
"Little Bear" photo ©2019  Mary Goring

 Mary's birthday was coming up in February, so I wanted to send a hug back. I hoped to convey my message as clearly as Mucha did with his poster. I kept this in mind as I arranged the key design elements and squeezed in as many heart motifs as I comfortably could into the drawing. How many do you count? ;D

"Little Bear Hug" pencil drawing in my sketchbook ©2019 Tina M.Welter
"Little Bear Hug" drawing ©2019

Dark outlining of main design elements is another common feature of Art Nouveau, as well as the distinctive typography.  I was inspired by this one found on Link here.

Typeface Art Nouveau-Bistro ©2006 Gophmann A.L.,All rights reserved.
"Art Nouveau Bistro"©2006 A.L.Gophmann

For my limited palette, I chose primary yellow and it's secondary compliment, purple. The purple was created by mixing quinacridone magenta and pthaloblue. Combined with the yellow, it made the perfect warm brown for the kitten's fur.

Color palette: cadmium yellow light, quinacridone magenta, and pthaloblue.
Color palette.

I was going to be really strict about only using yellow and purple, but this mostly yellow & purple color themed illustration by Mucha influenced me to add another secondary color, green.

JOB cigarettes poster 1898 Alphonse Mucha
JOB cigarettes poster 1898 Alphonse Mucha

 I mixed my green from the same three palette colors I was already using. Cadmium yellow and pthaloblue makes a nice bright green which I thought needed a little touch of quinacridone magenta to grey that brightness down a bit.

Color Palette, figuring out the right shade of green.
Color Palette, mixing the right green.

I'm not certain if the way I used the green is as pleasing as Mucha's, but it certainly achieved my goal of making the yellow word "Hug" stand out. I actually wanted the letters to be in gold, which was another cool element often used in Art Nouveau style, but my gold paint didn't look right and I had to change the lettering back to plain yellow. 

All in all, I am happy with the way the artwork turned out. I really like the underlying design and I would like to move the colors around a little and paint it again. My friend Gayle is going to use it in her next blog and my dear cousin absolutely loved it, and that is the best praise of all.

I highly recommend making something in an art style that inspires you, what you discover on that journey may be a delightful surprise.

Happy creating!



Friday, December 28, 2018

Red and Green Only

Surrounded with the beautiful colors of red and green during the holiday season, I wondered what would happen if I mixed them. Could I make a whole painting with just the limited colors of red and green? Here is what I discovered.

Napthol Red and Pthalogreen Poinsettia leaves, ©2018 Tina M. Welter
"Red and Green Only" poinsettia

First I looked for some tips on the Golden Acrylics website. I found a whole page on the topic of mixing colors which was really helpful. Here is the link: Golden paints mix guide

The guide said that Napthol Red Light mixed with Pthalo-Green would make black. I was curious. I had those two acrylic colors in my paintbox, plus Napthol Crimson. I mixed them both with the Pthalo-Green to see what the color difference might be. It's subtle, but I could tell the Napthol Crimson was a bit towards the cooler blue side. I decided to use the Napthol Red Light since it's warmer tones were more like the poinsettia leaves I wanted to paint.

Color mixing Napthol Red and Pthalogreen acrylic paint ©2018 Tina M.Welter

I have to admit, it was hard for me to make a painting with just those two colors because I could see yellow and other warm browns in my reference photo. I normally paint what I see, so I had to fight against my instinct to add yellow or white to the mix! I pushed myself to stick with only red and green and the result was the poinsettia leaves painting above. It's kind of an odd painting, but also interesting at the same time. The missing primary yellow color seems to have created a puzzle my brain wants to keep solving. :D

I decided to try exercise number four listed in the mix guide, using the specific "organic" colors suggested of Hansa Yellow, Quinacridone Magenta and Pthalo-Blue. Note: "organic" in this sense means color pigments created in a lab using the principles of organic chemistry. These are not colors derived from minerals or ores found in nature.

I only had the Pthalo-Blue color as acrylic paint, but found the other two colors in an old set of watercolors and they worked just fine. The important part is that these three colors were all organic pigments in a water soluble form.

Color mixing Quinacridone Magenta, Hansa Yellow, and Pthaloblue ©2018 Tina M.Welter

You can see that the result was a gorgeous bright red and vivid green. Great, now what happens when I mix these two colors together plus a little white? The result was an interesting range of dull greens and earth brown tones. What could I make with these?

Red and Green make... ©2018 Tina M.Welter

I arranged them as a christmas tree...

Red and Green dots make a Christmas tree ©2018 Tina M.Welter

...then some holly berries and leaves as I tested out adding more or less of the vivid green to the bright red.

Red and Green make Holly Leaves ©2018 Tina M.Welter

Surprise, when I mixed equal parts of the red and the green I got a gorgeous red brown! A strange color for a holly leaf, but it made me think of the coat on a famous deer.

Red and Green make Rudolf's Coat. ©2018 Tina M.Welter

Well, that was really fun, I love being surprised when mixing colors. I took a look in my acrylic paint box and wondered what would happen if I mixed a generic red and green. These are not my professional paints, but a set given to me that I use in craft projects. The paint tubes were titled "Emerald Green" and "Cadmium Red hue." I mixed them together. The color dot to the left has more red than green and the dot on the right has more green than red. Next I added white to each of these.

Mixing Cadmium Red Hue and Emerald Green  ©2018 Tina M.Welter

Hmmm, what could I paint using these colors? The light purplish grey color made me think of angel wings and the dark red brown would make nice hair. So far, so good, but eventually I realized I had to add yellow to make the fair skin tone I wanted and the halo of course. Close, but not purely red and green only.

Green "Holly Angel" acrylic paint on paper ©2018 Tina M.Welter

What did I learn? It is possible to make a decent painting with only a primary color and it's secondary complement. Even a generic red and green will make a good brown and adding white will provide even more options. I could do a lot with those limitations. Choose your subject wisely though, I feel I got away with painting a poinsettia since it is already mostly green and red. With the angel, I seriously felt compelled to add another primary color, yellow, to give some warmth and enough contrast to balance out a really cold palette. I suppose I could have tried a very pale pink or green for a skin tone, my angel certainly would have looked "unearthly" all right!

After this experiment, I do feel inspired to test out the other primary colors and their complements. What paintings could I make with just yellow and purple or blue and orange? Hmmm...

Extremely basic artist color circle  ©Tina M.Welter

Happy creating!


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Little bits of color, Big impressions.

Season Finale painting, color and brush stroke detail ©2018 Tina M.Welter
Season Finale painting, color and brush stroke detail ©2018 
I've always been inspired by the impressionist painters. It's not just because they caused a big stir in the 1860's French art scene by going against the centuries old painting traditions of the Academy of Fine Arts. I didn't know anything about their painting "rebellion" until I went to college. I certainly wouldn't have guessed that using primary colors directly on the canvas, choosing to leave your brush strokes visible, and painting outside to record scenes from everyday life was controversial. I just loved the colors and the sense of light that sparkled across the canvases of Claude Monet. 
Claude Monet, Woman with a Parasol - Madame Monet and Her Son (Camille and Jean Monet), 1875, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Claude Monet, Woman with a Parasol - Madame Monet and Her Son
1875, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
images from Wikipedia

Claude Monet, Haystacks, (sunset), 1890–1891, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Claude Monet, Haystacks, (sunset), 1890–1891, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Of course, admiring a beautiful style of painting doesn't translate into being able to actually paint in that style. It's been years since I have tried, but I've decided to attempt it again. 

For me, part of the puzzle is learning how to break down the color I am seeing into little pieces and then having the restraint to paint those small bits as individual brush strokes. This has always seemed overwhelming to me, but I recently came up with a solution. I used an effect on my computer to "crystallize" my reference photo to help me focus on those little bits of color.
Season Finale photo "crystallized" ©2018 Tina M.Welter
Season Finale photo "crystallized" ©2018 Tina M.Welter

Perhaps some folks will think this is cheating, but for me, it feels like using training wheels on a bike. I know practicing this skill will alleviate my overwhelm now and hopefully make it possible for me to become more confident painting this way.

So far, this strategy is working quite well. I've been able to get the basic colors and shapes down a lot faster than usual. Compare my first day painting to what I accomplished only eight painting days later.

Season Finale, acrylic on canvas, first day painting ©2018 Tina M.Welter
Season Finale, 36x48 inches - first painting day ©2018
Season Finale, 36x48 inches, acrylic on canvas ©2018 Tina M.Welter - not completed
Season Finale, 36x48 inches - eighth painting day ©2018
About 1/4 of the right side isn't completely covered with the first layer of paint, you can still see the white canvas showing through. Once I get all of the canvas covered, I'm going to try refining the shapes with more complementary colors and smaller brush strokes. 

The Impressionists wanted to capture the effects of light by not blending and shading colors smoothly on the canvas. They experimented with placing small brush strokes of primary colors and their complements together in such a way that the eye of the viewer does the color mixing instead. It's an ambitious goal and I think of it as one of those beautifully creative ideas that was perhaps a first step towards making the technology of television and computer screen pixels that we are familiar with today.

If you are interested in reading more about how the Impressionism movement began, who was in it and what the painting techniques were, this Wikipedia entry is really helpful. Click here

Happy learning and creating!


Sunday, September 30, 2018

Happiness is a Big New Canvas

Crab apple leaves and fruit, ©2017  photo by Tina M. Welter
Crab apple leaves and fruit, November 2017

Oh the possibilities! It's always exciting to start a new project. None of the frustrations that will inevitably surface have arrived yet. That big canvas is one beautiful, wide open expanse ready for exploration. The best part is that I can envision the painting in my mind and it looks great. :D I savor that moment, because reality will surface soon enough and cause me plenty of creative anxiety! 

Roughing in basic design layout with thinned paint wash.
Roughing in basic design layout with thinned paint wash.

I learned a lot from my first large painting. These are the lessons I want to share and that I will be taking with me for this second try. 

1. It takes so much more paint that I expected. Plan on several layers of acrylic paint to get good coverage of the canvas and to add depth to the colors. Be patient!

2. Don't take the extra time to paint the under-grid, it's not necessary. Drawing it on the canvas lightly with pencil is fine.

3. Loosen up! Don't worry so much about getting the shapes and colors perfect on the first try. Acrylic paint dries fast and is super forgiving. Plus those layers add character. Warning: Do be cautious about putting the paint on too thick though, unless you want that texture. Edges from lines of thick paint will be visible even under several following coats of paint.

4. Thou shalt not dive into the details too soon! This only leads to frustration and wasted time, trust me. Focus on getting the large shapes and values right first. 

I hope those thoughts were helpful, especially if you have a large wall just begging for a painting. Here is our dining room wall that I have been pondering over for more than a year.

Photo of our dining room and wall, imagining the painting possibilities.

I imagined so many different images for this space. I tried several of my flower photos and they just didn't feel right. Finally, both Jeff and I felt this fall photo of the crab apple fruit and leaves from the tree in our front yard suited the color scheme and had the right mood. I remember taking the photo as kind of an afterthought. I happened to notice the light on the leaves when I was going in the front door after a walk and made myself go and get my camera. It just goes to show you never know when a great photo opportunity is going to happen.
Our dining room and wall with photo insert, imagining the painting possibilities.

Now begins the uphill climb of trying to capture something of that light and movement in paint. The adventure of exploring another lovely big canvas has begun.

Happy creating!


p.s. Photo of that little crab-apple tree from today. It's fall glory of golden leaves will be appearing soon.

Dwart crab apple tree in our front yard full of fruit.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

It's a Celebration!

Finally, I finished that large painting of orchids that I started last fall! I was making good progress January-February, but had an unexpected request for several illustrations in March that sent me down a long sidetrack.

Red violet orchids, acrylic painting

 Since then, that painting has been hanging around in the background, haunting me like an unquiet ghost. For me, the souls of unfinished projects are terrible creatures, especially when the artwork is so large that I can't conveniently hide it in a drawer to muffle it's insistent demands to "complete me!"

As a bonus, which should completely appease this ghost of projects past, I made a slide show and composed music especially for this artwork in process.

Orchids, painting over time... (click link here) 

I hope you will enjoy it too. Whew, no more haunting until the next big project! :P


Saturday, June 30, 2018

Bring on the Roses

It's summer and that means roses! After all the study of pruning tutorials, healing of scratches and battling with aphids, it's finally time to get out the camera and capture some of those blooming beauties waiting outside.

As always, glamour shots require good lighting. 

Rose Cascade, photograph ©2018 Tina M. Welter
This is a pretty shape, a nice cascade of roses and leaves but where is the drama? Not enough light and shadow to bring out the character of the leading ladies.

Five Rose Bushes in a Row, photograph ©2018 Tina M. Welter
Now this time of day looks more promising, just look at those highlights and shadows. I'm going in to scout for some stunning close-ups.

Single Lady- rose portrait, photograph ©2018 Tina M.Welter
 Now that's a portrait. This single lady is looking fine.

Sisters Three, pink roses photograph ©2018 Tina M.Welter
 All three of these sisters shine.

Young and Old, pink roses- photograph ©2018 Tina M.Welter
Even the young and the old glow in this perfectly angled light.

It's always a thrill to find new stars just waiting to be discovered when I stop and photograph the roses.

Happy creating!



Thursday, May 31, 2018

Did Your Eyes Understand What My Paint Brush Was Saying?

Pink, white and green, Springtime Delight, 6x12 inches, acrylic on canvas ©2018 TinaM.Welter

I recently had an interesting conversation with a friend who asked, "what if I want to try painting, but I can't draw at all?" and "would what I make be considered art if it doesn't look realistic?" We had a great discussion about how only using the elements of color, shape and texture is a completely valid way to make art.

If you have ever wondered this yourself, perhaps you would like to try the challenge of creating Abstract art. The on-line dictionary defines Abstract art as art that does not attempt to represent external reality, but seeks to achieve it's effect using shapes, forms, colors and textures.

Personally, I find making Abstract art really challenging! It feels safer to go by the visual roadmap outside of me instead of the one inside of me. I know the beautiful things I see in the real world will most likely be beautiful on the canvas. It's kind of scary for me to go creating without a clear visual destination ahead. 

Many people think abstract art is so simple, a child can do it. Perhaps they can, but can you re-create that childlike creative freedom as an adult? Try it and see. It is possible to have an unexplored gift for this type of painting, so of course it would seem simple to you. Remember the best abstract art still has to balance the elements of color, shape, texture and design to be visually interesting.

Abstract art is also about exploring the emotional internal landscape and being able to successfully communicate that world to others without using obvious, recognizable images. See what I mean about it not being a simple art form?

What I find the most interesting about really good abstract art is how much it is an expression of the individual artist, like an emotional fingerprint or snapshot.

In the interest of expanding creativity by trying new and scary things, I am going to step out of my comfort zone of realism and put the the advice I gave my friend to the test.

The first element I am going to focus on for inspiration and some direction is color.

One of my all time favorite resources for color inspiration is a site called Design Seeds. The blog owner creates these beautiful color palettes from photos of just about anything. If you love color as much as I do, prepare to spend some time here. You can search by color palette or subject matter. Click on the button, "explore by" on the top of the page. Here is the page I found by searching one of my favorite colors, periwinkle. Design Seeds inspirational color.  
So many lovely choices! This is the one I decided to use.

Lovely spring colors, "Flora" ©April 2018, Design Seeds

Next I mixed up my palette from acrylic paints. I used three colors, Chromium Oxide Green, Cadmium Yellow Light, Prisma Violet and Titanium White to make the six color palette. 

Green, Purple, Pink, Color palette ©2018 Tina M.Welter

The next element I chose was shape. I went with circles, mostly because I had all kinds of various sized cups and bottles handy on my desk. Also, after choosing the color palette it gave me an idea of what I wanted to convey and I thought circles might be a good choice.

White circles, green background

I traced/drew the circles in pencil on the canvas and then painted the green background around them using brushes and a canvas knife.

Pink circles on green background

Next I added the purple and pinks... Yikes, I have hit the ugly stage and I have no idea where I am going with this! I know the emotion I want to express, but I'm not certain how to get there. I find I am thinking a lot about design and what I know about color. Hmmm...when in doubt, paint it out, i.e. bust out a big brush full of Titanium White! ;D

Abstract floral painting, pinks, green and white.

Whew, saved by the big brush! The white softened the hard edges of the pinks and purples and I felt I had a direction again. I started adding some little detail circles in light green and found myself naturally making the seashell swirl that I have been doodling since I was a teenager. I went with it. This is what I mean by Abstract art being a sort of fingerprint. Each artist has their own "go to" shape they naturally make and this one is mine. I haven't used it purposefully in a painting in years, but there it is.

Now, the important question. What emotion or idea does this little painting convey to you? Comment below or on the Facebook page. I'm curious to see if I was successful at sending my message to you. 

Happy creating!


p.s. If you want to see a masterful use of acrylic painting techniques in a short 3:22 minute video, check this link out on YouTube.    SurajFineArts - Abstract painting