Monday, 27 July 2009

Watching the sharks at Monterey

This painting is part of the Californian series that I am working on. Monterey aquarium is one of a kind and I enjoyed the visit each time I went there.

Watching the sharks at Monterey - Oil on canvas (18" x 14") by Benoit Philippe

Friday, 24 July 2009

Signing your works of art

This article was first published in my newsletter "Notes From My French Easel" – June 2009. Follow the link to subscribe to the newsletter.

Signing a work is like affixing your brand on it. The work becomes truly yours.

One function of the signature is to tell yourself (and others) that you judge that your work is finished. I occasionally rework paintings that have been signed, but this is the exception. To me, seeing the signature as “stop” sign is good practice. You could work again and again on a painting and try to make it perfect. At some point, it just makes it worst because the painting feels laboured. Knowing when to stop is part of the art and a difficult decision. Practically, I often wait a few weeks before signing a painting to make sure that the work is finished.

I see my signature has part of the composition. What I mean by this is that, when I am in the middle of a painting, I know where the signature will go and I treat the signature as one visual element to balance the composition. In term of size, the size of the signature should remain proportional to the scale of the work. In other word, your signature is not your work and a big signature will only detract the viewer from the actual painting.

You can sign your work in many ways:

  • Horizontally or vertically

  • Your full name or your initials

  • At the front or at the back of the work

  • Should be still visible when the work is framed (so remember to leave space for the mount or frame)

In any case, I believe a signature should be legible (so the work can be identified as yours) and somehow consistent. This is important in order to facilitate later identification of your works. In case you are using initials or a monogram, I strongly recommend that you write your full name at the back of your work.

Legibility requirement also mean that the signature should be on a quiet background, not across a busy pattern. Regarding contrast, I have tried using black as well as light colours (for dark background). Now, most of the time, I am using a light hue of red, which I found work well with most background colours in landscape and is noticeable without being too dark. This is a matter of personal taste.

Your signature may vary and evolve over several years, however you should try to be consistent and avoid signing in a different way each time. Your signature is part of your style.

Related articles

To sign or not to sign (your artwork) by Alyson Stanfield of ArtBizBlog

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Monday, 20 July 2009

What scientist and artists have in common?

"I think the scientific and the artistic spirit have something in common. The scientist wants not only to learn the facts, but to understand how they cohere, fit together and make a whole. He even uses criteria such as beauty and symmetry to help decide which theory he wants.

The scientist cannot capture the whole cosmos in thought. In his mind he makes a kind of microcosm, which we see as an analogue of the cosmos. In this way we try to get a feeling for the whole. The artist, I suppose, gets a feeling for the whole some other way.”

David Bohm in “Art, Dialogue and the Implicate Order”, published in
On Creativity RC (Routledge Classics)

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Monday, 13 July 2009

How to varnish an oil painting

First, make sure your work is fully dry before you varnish it. Oil paint takes a long time to dry, but it really depends on how thick the paint is: A thin layer will by totally dry in 3 months, when a thick application of paint (impasto) may take up to 1 year to be fully dry.

Wipe out any dust with a cloth to clean the surface of your work. This job is easier if you slightly damp the cloth with water. In this case, let the canvas to dry before you apply the varnish, so that you don’t trap moisture between the paint and the layer of varnish.

You will need:

  • Some old newspapers to protect the table you are working on.

  • A jar or dish to pour the varnish in (the mouth of the bottle of varnish is often too narrow to let you dip the brush directly into the bottle)

  • A flat bristle brush (household paint brushes work well for this). It is worth investing in a good quality brush that does not loose any hair and will give you a nice even surface.

To apply the varnish on small and medium works, place them horizontally on a flat surface.

Dip your brush in the dish where you poured the varnish and remove the excess by running the head of the brush on the rim of the dish,

Start at the top of the painting and apply the varnish in straight lines parallel to the larger width of the work. You can go back and forth or go always from the same side to the other side; it does not really matter as long as you keep the lines parallel. Each new line should overlap at the edge with the previous one, so that you don’t have any gap.

First method: going back and forth

Second method: always starting from the same side

When you have finished, start again from the top but this time parallel to the smaller width of your board or canvas. Crossing the initial layer of varnish in this way will ensure an even and complete application.

Impasto can become trouble points because they form ridges that hold too much varnish or they are difficult to cover with varnish because of their uneven surface. One way to solve this potential issue is to start by the area with strong impasto work and scrub the varnish in. Then proceed as described above in order to have a regular application of varnish throughout the whole surface.

The best way to ensure that you have covered the entire work with varnish is to put your eyes at the level of the edge of the painting, facing a light source. This way, the fresh vanish shines in the light and you see immediately the areas you have missed. If you see any drip, pass the brush over them immediately. It is important not to wait, otherwise, the varnish will start to set and the brush will remove the layer of varnish and create an uneven surface.

Checking the varnished surface in the light

You want to “stretch” the application to avoid drips. Once you have checked that all areas are covered, stop and leave the varnish to dry overnight. The varnish should be touch-dry the next day. You can test this by touching the side of the painting with your finger. The surface should not be tacky.

I generally apply only one layer of varnish. If you want to have a ticker application, applying a second layers after the first one is dry is better than trying to put a thick application in one go (with the risk to have drips and cracks).

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Saturday, 11 July 2009

Getting the best of an Open Studios

I am still helping with the organisation of the Swindon Open Studios 2009 and, as part of this, I have started a blog. I just posted there an article on Getting the best of an Open Studios. Check it out...

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Irises and peonies - oil painting

During May, we went to the North of France and I had time to paint outside. The “Walled garden”study is the first painting I did during the week. This was a quick painting done with the intent to come back to the garden and paint a bigger and more elaborate work. It was also a sort of warm-up, as I had not painted from nature for some time.

The walled garden is only a few metres from the house we were staying in. It is a beautiful place with fruit trees, irisses, peonies and a well maintained vegetable patch. There are always birds flying around.

“Walled garden” study - Oil on board by Benoit Philippe

The second work was painted at the end of the week. By that time, I had worked on several small paintings and it shows: I was "in the flow". I chose a different angle to use the path as the device to lead the eye towards the house behind the wall.

“Irises and peonies” - Oil on Canvas by Benoit Philippe