Monday, 29 November 2010

Jazzing up your leaflets presentation

You need to present some leaflets on a table in a way that entice visitors to take one? You want to spread them in a aesthetic way? The video (with soundtrack) shows you a simple method to do that.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Oil painting initial drawing with a Pentel Color Brush

I sorted out my art supply and found a Pentel Color Brush I bought earlier in the year. I did a quick sketch with it and found it is easy to work with. There are 18 colours available but I only have a “steel blue” one.

The tapered point retains its pointy shape. The ink flows well and dries quickly. By holding the pen brush lightly, you get fine lines and larger ones with a slight pressure. The calligraphic feel is interesting.

As I started a new small oil painting on canvas board, I wondered if I could use the Pentel Color Brush for the initial drawing. I gave it a try and it worked well. Because the bristles of the nylon tip are springy, the texture of the canvas is not an issue. The ink goes smoothly from the cartridge to the tip of the brush and it was easy to draw on the vertical support: The ink did not drip and I did not have to squeeze the cartridge once.

On a second painting I started, I was not happy with the scale of one of the figures in the composition. I just took a rag and wiped out the drawing to start again. This left some marks, but nothing that went in the way.

The ink is not permanent (I could not find any indication about the lightfastness of the ink), but the interference with the paint was minimal, even with the steel blue colour that is quite strong. 

What I liked is that drawing with a brush already put me in a “painting mode”, even before I started with colours.

Monday, 22 November 2010

The museum guard

I painted this oil from a reference photograph I took at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. The photo was blurred (without flash and tripod, it is tricky to get the focus right), but I still wanted to use it.

The museum guard – Oil on canvas panel (6” x 8”) by Benoit Philippe

Below is the initial drawing and the blocking-in stage for this painting.

I have done other paintings of visitors in art galleries before (see Cardiff Art gallery – Pastel) and I intend to carry on with a series of paintings on the same theme.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Getting back into gouache

I used to paint with gouache. In fact, my first painting box (that I still have) was a wooden box with a set of large Lefranc Bourgeois tubes of gouache that I won in a painting competition when I was eight. I am not sure why I stopped using gouache. I just did.

Here is the definition of “gouache” in the The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms

“Also called bodycolour, is watercolour which is opaque (as opposed to its more common transparent form). This opacity is achieved by the addition of white paint or pigment (such as Chinese white). Gouache was used in manuscript illumination and early watercolours (for example by Albrecht Dürer). It was also employed by miniature painters in the 17th and 18th centuries. Many of the watercolours of Paul Sandby (1731–1809), generally credited as the founder of the English watercolour school, were in gouache.”

Last summer, I read a good article on gouache in a French painting magazine and decided to buy a set of colours. I bought some Talens Extra Fine Quality gouache. I took a set of the primary colours, plus black and white:

  • White
  • Lemon yellow (primary)
  • Light Blue (Cyan) 
  • Permanent Rose (Magenta)
  • Black intenso
I completed this basic set with a few colours:

  • Naples Yellow
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Carmine
  • Cerulean Blue (Phthalo)
  • Ultramarine deep

I probably need to add a dark green to this selection.

When I started “The crimson cyclamen”, I put too much water in the paint and the paint did not cover properly my dark background. You can use gouache this way, and have washes of transparent colours, but it defeats the purpose to use it like watercolour. Once you get a good consistency, gouache is easy to work and gives a nice mat finish.

I had to get used again to the fact that gouaches dries quickly. You can do some blending on the painting support, but it is easier to mix on the palette.

To answer the question of why gouache is no very popular these days, I have some ideas: when people think gouache, they think school art classes. Designers, who used gouache a lot, have switched to digital media. Watercolour is more prestigious than gouache and, finally, the rise of acrylic painting made gouache redundant.

I still like this neglected medium that allows painting quickly with opaque layers of colours.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

The crimson cyclamen - Gouache

The crimson cyclamen - Gouache (6" x 8") by Benoit Philippe

Monday, 15 November 2010

I was right… 3 years ago

Three years ago, after reading the correspondence between Henri Matisse and the painter Pierre Bonnard, I wrote a post titled “The art of ordinary”, quoting a postcard that Matisse sent to his friend Bonnard from Tahiti. Matisse despaired of his inability to paint anything or take any good photograph despite the beauty surrounding him.

My hunch, when I wrote this article, was that the Tahiti trip, far from being sterile, had planted the seed of what would become Matisse’s colourful cut out papers.

So I was pleased to discover I was right. In his book “Conversations with Picasso”, the photographer Brassaï remembered a visit he paid to Matisse on Friday 20 December 1946. Matisse was in bed, cutting out his coloured papers that evoked Oceania and he told Brassaï:

“The memories of my trip to Tahiti only come back to me now, fifteen years later, in the form of haunting images: stony corals, corals, fishes, birds, jellyfish, sponges ... it is curious, isn’t it, that all these enchantments of the sky and the sea did not entice me immediately... I have returned from the islands completely empty handed ... I did not even bring back photographs ... even though I bought a very expensive camera. But over there, I hesitated, "If I take pictures of everything I see in Oceania, I told myself, I will only be left with poor images. And photos may be preventing my impressions to act deep inside me ... "I was right, I think. It is more important to let things soak than wanting to catch them on the spot.”

You need to allow time for ideas and impressions to incubate. It takes months, years, and sometimes fifteen years, even for artists like Matisse. But time will come.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

How many sugars?

How many sugars? - Oil on canvas panel (6" x 8") by Benoit Philippe

Monday, 8 November 2010

The making of Isabella's - Oil painting

Watch the making of the painting of "Isabella's", step by step. This painting which is part of the Californian Dream exhibition.

NOTE: This video contains (nice) music.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Editing details out of your artwork

This article was first published in my newsletter "Notes From My French Easel" – July August 2009. Follow the link to receive this free monthly newsletter.

In an article on his blog titled “Editors”, Seth Godin wrote:

“Turns out that for the last seventeen twenty-seven years, every single movie that managed to win the Oscar for best picture was also nominated for best editing.”
It takes times to make things simpler, because you need to understand first the essence of what you are trying to express.

It is easier to cram everything into your picture, to go into minute details. By editing, you make a stronger statement. See building your composition as telling a story. To lead the viewer, you want a strong narrative line and that will only happen if you bring out some elements while downplaying others.

Does that mean there should be no details in your work? Not at all; details are good when used in a judicious way. A few strokes can evoke hundred of tiles on a roof and a few patches of bright red fill a meadow with poppies. They are what I call “telling details” because they bring sense and meaning. Another important role of details is to bring an area of the painting in focus.

Honfleur door - The paving is just suggested as well as the stones on the wall

Physiology and psychology are on our side when we leave details out. As visual artists, we are helped by how vision is as much the work of the brain as it is perception by our eyes. In other words, our brain is really good at filling gaps and adding details we expect to see where there are none. In this way, a painting with fewer detailed areas is more personal, as each viewer fills the gaps in his own way. It is also more interesting because it creates some sense of mystery.

Practically, what does that mean?

  • If you paint a brick wall, don’t paint every single joint.
  • Paint the tree, not its leaves.
  • Make a thumbnail or a small study of your subject. Drawing or painting small will force you to forego details.
  • Work on the whole painting at once, not square centimetre by square centimetre.
  • Go from the general to the particular. Work on large planes and masses first before you add details. This way, you control the amount of details you want to add in.
  • Paint with big brushes.
  • Try this: when you pick a brush, put it down and take one size up instead.
  • Try this: Execute the whole painting with only large flat brushes and no small pointy riggers or sable round brushes
There is no better way to end this short article than by quoting the French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal (1623-1662):

"I have made this letter longer because I have not had time to make it shorter."

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Burne-Jones cathedral window in Oxford

Last Saturday, as we some family over, we went to Oxford and visited Christ Church college.

One of the stained glass windows in the cathedral of the college has been designed by Edward Burne-Jones one of the Pre-Raphaelite painters: the Saint Catherine window. According to the leaflet provided, "the face of the central figure, St. Catherine of Alexandria, is a picture of Edith Liddell."

Related articles and resources

Monday, 1 November 2010

FASO Database of Known Art Scammers

From time to time, you can read a story of art scammers abusing the confidence of artists. Fine Art Studio Online (FASO) by Clint Watson (@clintavo on Twitter) put together a database of Known Art Scammers that you can consult for free.

You can search by typing in an Email address, IP address or the person's name. If you are not sure how to find the IP address from an email, please check the article "How to find the IP address of the email sender in Gmail, Yahoo mail, Hotmail, AOL, Outlook Express, etc"

This is one resource to bookmark. And thank you Clint for making this resource available.

Winston cafe (Paris)

Winston cafe (Paris) - Oil on panel canvas (6" x 8") by Benoit Philippe

I shot the reference photographs I used for this painting while in Paris. It was dawn and did not know if the photos would be any good.

I decided to play on the contrast between complimentary colours to build this painting.