Jolie Guillebeau

Archive for the ‘Arts’ Category

Saturday Tutorial: Shading a Sphere.

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

I’m in the midst of a crazy weekend, since I’m preparing for our trip to New York City this week, we start counting down to the holidays on Tuesday, and of course there’s a book launch happening.

But I hadn’t forgotten you! I found these tutorials by Myron Barnstone on YouTube a few weeks ago and I’ve been saving them for just this occasion. The one below is my favorite, but I learn something every time I watch any of his videos.

See you on Tuesday with a new painting!

Saturday Tutorial: Brushes for Beginning

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

If you’re just starting out, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the choices out there. Especially with brushes. There are just way too many options.

Obviously, if you’re in a class, then the teacher is going to have some recommendations, but if not, then here’s a good list to begin– just the very basics.

Start by reading last week’s tutorial, so you’ll understand the terms I’m using here, and of course if you see a brush that speaks to you and isn’t too expensive, buy it. Just be careful– I have way too many brushes that I bought as a beginner that I never use, but chose them because they were pretty in the store. You don’t want gorgeous brushes. You want good, reliable workhorses that will help you create gorgeous paintings.

If you have $20 to spend on brushes buy these:

1. A size 8 hog bristle flat like this one.

2. A size 6 hog bristle round like this one.

3. A size 8 soft bristle synthetic like this one.

4. A size 4 soft bristle synthetic like this one.

Each of these is going to be less than or around five bucks. They’re all pretty small brushes, but I’d start here. If you’re going to paint larger canvases, then of course you’ll need larger brushes.

A word to the wise: Always paint with the biggest brush possible. Just trust me.

So as you’re ready to invest a little more, then you’ll want to buy a few more sizes of each shape. Don’t be afraid to go big with brushes. You’ll also want a mixture of synthetic and natural bristles, especially until you’re more familiar with what you like. Just keep trying lots until you find your favorites.

My favorites change regularly. Especially since brushes seem to be discontinued as often as china patterns or my favorite lipstick shade. For awhile I loved the Grumbacher Renoir Bright in size 8. But then it was discontinued, and then I found an Raphael filbert that had just the right curve to it, and it was discontinued. I’m currently passionate about my new Escoda sable, but that will change too. Different paintings need different brushes. Different painters need different brushes. Experiment. Find the ones you love. Then come back and tell me about them. Because I’m always looking for good brushes.

Saturday Tutorial: Choosing Brushes.

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

I’ve had lots of questions about brushes lately, so I thought I’d quickly cover some basics today and then we’ll do another video tutorial next week. For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to refer to brushes for oil painters here, but most of this information applies to almost any other kind of painting.

There’s a lot to know about brushes. And yet, once you know it then it becomes pretty simple. It’s a bit like Harry Potter choosing a wand– the most important factor is how it feels when you’re using it. And armed with the right information, you’ll be able to make magic with these brushes, too.

Most brushes are built with a handle, a ferrule (the metal part that holds the bristles) and the brush head (which is another name for the filaments or the little hairs). When buying brushes you want to pay attention to the handle and the ferrule first. Is the ferrule wobbly where it attaches to the handle? Pick another brush. Is the paint chipping from the handle? Pick another brush– this likely means the wooden handle has been exposed to water and will swell. Handles are longer for oils and acrylics (for painting at an easel) and shorter for watercolor (since you’re painting at a desk).You want a seamless ferrule, made of metal that won’t rust.  This keeps paint and liquids from damaging the structure of the brush.

Now as for filaments, it’s a little more complicated but it still basically comes down to three choices.

Material, Shape, and Size.

Material is first. The filaments can be made of soft animal hair, hog bristles or synthetic materials like nylon. There are advantages to each kind and it’s a good idea to have a few of each in your toolkit.

First, let’s talk about natural. There are two kinds of natural bristles–hog bristle and soft animal hairs like sable. Sable brushes have a nice spring and keep their shape very well. They’re expensive, but when cared for they’ll last years. They are best for details and precision. Hog bristle is usually white in color, and stiffer. They’re good for pushing paint around quickly and leave a distinct mark in the stroke. They’re pretty bristle-y (if that’s a word) and very durable. They work well for large surfaces or for thicker paint.

Most brushes in art supply stores are synthetics. Synthetic brushes are made from nylon or polyester and they’re much cheaper than softer animal hair brushes. For example, I’ve had a combination of synthetic and hog bristle brushes in my studio for years, but just bought my first sable this year. I only own one sable, and I’ve been really happy with my synthetic brushes for years.

A side note: In the store, often brushes are stiff and starched, which helps protect them in transit. Before buying a brush, run it through your fingers and make sure it will hold its shape without that starchy stuff on it. Feel it– if you don’t like the way it feels, pick another brush.

Shape is the second factor in choosing a brush that makes you happy. It’s good to have a variety available, but you’ll find with experience that you prefer certain shapes and sizes.

Here’s a quick diagram showing the different shapes in my brush jar today.

Finally, size. There’s no standardized system for brush sizes. Different manufacturers may each make a size 8 round and yet one will be obviously larger than the other. It’s annoying, but just know that the larger number means a larger brush. Looking through my brushes, I have lots of sizes 4, 8, and 10. You’ll find the size of the brush as a number on the handle, usually it’s close to the ferrule. And in a perfect example of inconsistent sizing, here are these two brushes.

Both round, one is hog bristle and one is my sable brush. They look to be about the same size, yes? And yet, one says it’s a size 4 and the other is labeled as a size 16. Bah. Again, just find the brush that works best for you. Don’t get hung up on size.

Next week, we’ll talk about brush strokes and technique and I’ll offer recommendations on a few brushes for getting started.

Saturday Tutorial: Painting Demo

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

I’m kind of excited about this tutorial. It’s really fun to watch a painting develop from beginning to end, and I always learn something from watching others, so hopefully you’ll feel the same way.

This was originally about an hour of footage, and I’ve trimmed it down to just under 20 minutes. There are a couple of places where the audio jumps a bit, and remember, I’m still a video amateur, so don’t judge me too harshly!

I learned a couple of things doing this. One– make sure you charge the camera battery before you attempt to record an hour of painting footage. Two– it’s rather hard to talk and paint at the same time.

I’m starting with a 4×4 masonite block that’s been prepared with clear matte gesso, and I’m using my typical landscape palette.

And here’s part two.

Here’s the finished product. Let me know what you think!

Summer Sunshine: 46

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Four more.

I can’t believe we’re on the final week of this project. It’s gone so quickly! I’ve taken my easel to all over Portland, to the Waterfront, up to Canada and back, and I can’t end this series in good conscience without a few paintings of the Oregon Coast.

I’ve wanted to paint it for awhile, but I only had small panels. Then last week, when I painted four paintings and turned them in to one, I realized I could do the same thing with these paintings. So I dug out those sketches this weekend and got to work.

This is part one of two. You’ll see the other half tomorrow, and you can make an offer on one or both, if you want. Because Pay-what-you-will continues, of course.

4×4 Wax on Birch Panel. $?. You decide. Email me here.

Did you see Saturday’s Tutorial? It’s a video!

Saturday Tutorial– Video! Basic Brush Cleaning.

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

Huge Disclaimer: This is my first video post. It’s rough. But I still think there’s good stuff here, so I’m still going to put it out there.

In today’s tutorial, I review some basics. I’m showing you how to clean your brushes. It seems pretty easy to clean brushes– I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking you don’t need to watch a video on cleaning brushes. BUT! There are a couple of handy tricks. You might be surprised.

This first video explains a bit about different types of brushes, and shows you the best way to take care of them when you’re at your easel.

This next video is at the sink, showing the easiest and best way to wash each kind of brush. The challenge was finding an angle that allowed you to see everything without getting the camera wet. So the angle is a bit awkward.

I know, it’s a lot to take in. Who knew there was so much to learn about brush cleaning? Trust me, I’ll get better with the video posts, I promise.

Summer Sunshine: “Play-what-you-will”, Part 2!

Friday, August 6th, 2010

“Play-what-you-will” Part 2!

Today’s Friday, and that means I’m playing with a different medium, but a couple of things stay the same. Of course, we’re still doing the pay-what-you-will option. And I’m still painting purple flowers.

I think this is the last of them, though. Next week–our final week of this project– I promise I’ll paint something other than purple flowers. Meanwhile, here’s today’s painting.

Funny enough, this painting seems to be more about the sky than about the flowers, though. What do you think?

4×4 Wax on Birch Panel. $?. You decide. Email me here.

Only one week left! Can you believe it?


Sunday, August 1st, 2010

Today’s tutorial is going to take a slightly different form. I’ve been wanting to show a step-by-step process through  a painting for awhile, but it doesn’t work very well with smaller landscapes. So I thought I’d show you Chef Kermit, which was a recent commission.

When working on larger paintings, or things with a lot of detail, I start with charcoal, because it’s forgiving. I may spend several hours working out angles and getting things arranged on the canvas just the right way. If I’m uncertain about where a line should be, I’ll draw it several times– as you can see.

Once I get the lines in the right place, then I also block out the biggest dark shapes, which helps me with the next step. I put Burnt Umber on my palette, and using mineral spirits to thin the paint until it’s very loose, I’ll sketch in my dark shapes and big shadows. I use Burnt Umber, because it dries quickly and works nicely as a neutral under bright colors (and it’s cheap), but I’ve also used Burnt Sienna, or even Ultramarine Blue, which also work nicely.

At this point, I’m using a very large brush and I’m not worried about details at all. I’m focused on the core shadow– the darkest parts. I’m looking through my red cellophane fairly often to check the values.

Next, I’ll think about the mid-tones. Usually at this point I start really considering the background, and in this painting it was important to establish the background value, because of the Kermit’s cast shadow. I wanted it to be a big part of the composition, so I knew I needed to get the values right here before I worried too much about color.

Here I’m starting to add color to the major elements of the painting. I wanted the green to really jump out, so I was playing with different neutral backgrounds before I settled on this cool gray.

And here I’ve built up color even more, adding it to the books and the table top, but I haven’t even started on the spatula and the egg. I tend to be pretty detail focused, so I really make an effort to work from “general to specific.” It makes better paintings and it’s less frustrating for me, because often I realize a detail needs to move slightly or change a bit. If I wait to finish the details, then moving something around is a little easier.

Here I’ve begun to clean up edges and block in the spatula. I’ve also begun to add reflected light into the chef’s hat and Kermit’s body. At this point, I tend to get one area to a place that makes me happy, then try to build the rest of the painting up to match that area. Gradually I move to smaller and smaller brushes and tighter edges or more minute details.

This is pretty close to the end. I’ve added the eyes, cleaned up the edges around the egg, and begun the lettering on the books. I should tell you that there was probably 3 to 4 hours of work left on this before I felt completely happy with it, so this is definitely a process. People tell me all the time, “I could never do that!” But if you spend 25 hours looking at a stuffed frog, you’re going to be able to see details and things you wouldn’t otherwise notice. Give it time. Learning to see requires looking at something for a long time. You can do it.

Saturday Tutorial: Limited Palette, Option 1.

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

Remember a few weeks ago, when we talked about what to pack? And I mentioned paint?  Today I’ll show you how to get away with packing only four tubes of paint– which saves lots of space and hassle.

A quick disclaimer: These are the four tubes I’d pack when I’m painting here in the Pacific Northwest, which lends itself to softer grays and lots of green. If you’re in a desert, or the tropics, you might choose different colors, but I still think you can get away with only four tubes. Try it and let me know your results.

Titatinium White, Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine Blue, and Lemon Yellow.

These are the four I’d use. I know what you’re thinking–you’re worried that I’m missing a dark color . How am I going to get nice deep shadows? Or what about tree trunks? There’s no brown. Or gray for clouds or a road? And am I really going to get enough variety in my greens with only those four colors?

You’re skeptical, I know it. I was when I first learned this, too. What if I show you this?

This is my palette after about 20 minutes of work. I got all of this with just those four colors. Here’s a better photo– and I’ve left it large enough that you can click through to refer to it as needed.

Limited Palette for Landscapes

Chart of Limited Palette-- four colors.

On the far left are my original four colors– straight up. Then the second row are various mixtures of two of each of those colors. For example, I started with Lemon Yellow, and I mixed it with Ultramarine Blue to get a dark green. Then I took a little of that mixture and added more yellow to get a lighter green. Then I repeated that process to get an ever lighter green.

Next, I mixed Burnt Sienna and Lemon Yellow for a nice rust color, then I added a little more yellow, and then a little more until I had a pale orangey color. I repeated this process, mixing each color with one of the other three. So it goes like this:

Lemon Yellow + Burnt Sienna

Lemon Yellow + Ultramarine Blue

Lemon Yellow + Titanium White

Burnt Sienna + Titanium White

Ultramarine Blue + Titanium White

Burnt Sienna + Ultramarine Blue

Ultramarine Blue + Burnt Sienna

Wait, what? I just mixed those last two twice. Yes, exactly. The first mixture has a smidge (a very scientific measurement) more Burnt Sienna, where the second mixture has a smidge more Ultramarine Blue. One turns in to this lovely brown, where one is a nice dark neutral for shadows– or when I add white, it’s a perfect gray sky. See?

So from these four tubes of paint, I’ve got 37 different lovely shades for my next painting. Still skeptical? I’ve tucked this palette in to the freezer, and I’ll paint my next four paintings using only these colors. That way you can see the results as well.

Summer Sunshine: 35

Friday, July 23rd, 2010


I’ve never done this before, but I based today’s painting on yesterday’s. I liked the idea of trying the same image in a different medium. It fits with my grand plan, too. Stay tuned– on Monday all will be revealed!

And here’s the sideways view.

6×8 Wax on Birch panel. $65.