Drawing – because it works

More about drawing… When beginners are learning to draw, they get tired. We all do when concentrating on a difficult task. Like building up your muscles when weight training, the ideal time to keep at it is just a little bit longer than you would like to. I recommend using a timer. If you find that you can work comfortably for 15 minutes, try setting the timer for 20 minutes for the next few days. Continue this until you can comfortably work for about 35 minutes. That seems to be a good maximum goal for intense concentration. It really is like exercising. You are training your mind to concentrate, which can benefit other areas in life as well. All good! 
Tree Painting by Cheryl O

Five Thoughts to Encourage Art Students

Great art is very accessible these days. As a result, most of us know what we like  and what we don’t like. The problem manifests when a person is new into painting. They know what type of art they consider good art, but it’s just not flowing off their brush that way. It’s a dilemma. Here are some thoughts to give encouragement in that moment: 1. Every great artist was a beginner once. They had to learn how to mix colours and how to make the shapes and lines that best express their views in art. Being a beginner is where we all start. Michaelangelo said, “If they knew how hard I worked, they wouldn’t call it genius.”  2. If it was too easy, it would not be fun. We would all sit home and do paint by numbers instead. Embrace a spirit of adventure and enjoy the challenge. 3. As you get certain aspects of painting under the belt, they become intuitive, and painting gradually becomes more personal and rewarding. Be patient. Pianists understand that they can’t sit down and play a complex piece of music without practice. The same applies to painting. 4. Enjoy the fellowships. Artists, even brand new beginning artists, share an attitude that wants to be encouraging, not competitive, with one another. 5. You will learn to love the process – and this will be the key that unlocks the treasures of creativity for you. It’s just plain good for your spirit to get into the creative mode and leave the world behind. In this hectic world, we need a place of refreshing. That is what creativity is to many of us. Those of you who have been painting for awhile, what would you like to say to encourage beginners? Your comments welcome. 
Cahir Castle by Cheryl O

The Joy & the Challenge

It seems to me that anything worth doing is going to have some challenge attached to it. Art is never lacking in challenges, that’s for sure! My current challenge is to make paintings that have a soloist, and then a supporting cast. Specifically, I want one part of the painting to stand out, and the rest to fade away like a softly supporting choir does with a strong vocalist. I’m having fun with this concept, and the painting posted here is an example. What do you think of it? “Cahir Castle”, acrylic, by Cheryl O – and by the way, this painting will be at the art show that opens Wednesday Oct 23 from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm at the Aeolian Hall in London. Hope you can make it. As well as my paintings, there will be metal sculpture by artist Richard Sturgeon. Browsers are welcome. 
Painting 'Fleet Inspection'

Something New to Learn

The fall courses are listed! I have been painting through some of the paintings in the John Lovett book, and am very excited to learn his techniques. I’ve been working on the soft edged backgrounds with a vignetted feeling as the edges and corners fade. It’s fun! The painting featured here is from a photo by Barbara Lively Mastaglio (used with permission), and I try to use this effect. I think it needs a few more finishing touches yet. And here’s the link if you would like to join this class. It starts in October, but registrations are already coming in… Art Classes with Cheryl O Original Oil, by Cheryl O “Fleet Inspection” 
Wine Glass Painting

The Walk By

Sometimes it just works. You are at the point where you don’t know if the painting is done. Or, you know it’s not done, but can’t quite identify what it needs. So here’s what I recommend – put it someplace where you will walk by it frequently. You don’t have to stop to analyze it – just let it veg there, and be patient. What you are actually doing is giving your subconscious a chance to work on the problem. How long till the ah ha moment? For me it can be anywhere from a couple of days to a few weeks.  The walk by – a great technique to add to your painting repetoire! 
Red Pepper painting


When it comes to easels, there are lots of choices. In class, some students like a table top easel. The angle can help prevent light from glaring off the painting, but it is very optional. It’s almost as convenient to just put a paper towel roll under the top of the painting to give it a tilt. In my studio, I have a wooden standing easel, plus several styles of table top easels. Here’s a link to the most comprehensive article I have seen about easel types: Different Types of Painting Easels for Artists – by Artpromotivate. 

Paint Quality

I like to get a bargain when I can, but some things are just not worth saving the pennies over. Quality of paint is one. I strongly recommend that even beginners buy artist quality paint. Student quality paint can fade or change in a matter of weeks or months. For example, purples can turn brown. You don’t want that sort of thing happening in your work. Plus, the mixture that the manufacturer uses in student quality paint can vary from time to time depending which pigments are cheapest. This can be very frustrating to the artist because it means that the paint may behave differently from tube to tube. You want to be able to get to know each pigment – how it interacts with other pigments or with water or mediums. Any variables in quality will simply slow down the learning curve as you try to understand your paints behaviour. Lastly, you need to know that student quality paints are not always marked with the word “student”. In Winsor & Newton, student grade is called “Cottman”. In Liquitex brand, student grade is called “Basics”. If you are not sure when looking at a tube or jar in the art store, check with the staff that you are buying artist quality. You won’t be sorry. Happy painting! 
Painting - River Bank

The Best Composition Tip – Ever

The longer that I have been painting, the more I appreciate that good composition frequently comes down to one thing. It is – avoid 50/50 in every aspect. Landscape painters should avoid a horizon that is at all close to dividing the painting surface in half. Make it higher or lower. In addition, in any type of painting, it’s a good idea to avoid a half and half division between the amount of dark or light colour. Best to have the majority of the page dark with light accents or vise versa. The same can be said of warm versus cool colour, or textured versus smooth area, or hard versus soft edges. If in any aspect of composition you have to think hard about what is dominant and what an accent, then likely it is too close to 50/50 to be pleasing to the eye. Hope this is helpful, next time you are analysing your work. 

About Canvas

In any art supply store there is cheap canvas, and then there is the more expensive kind – which type I buy depends on exactly which painting techniques I will be using. The main difference between the 2 is the amount of gesso coating. You can’t go by labels such as ‘triple coated’ either. It seems that those 3 coats are incredibly thin sometimes. The result of not enough gesso is to make the canvas surface too absorbent. The paint soaks in too much instead of moving easily across the surface – not pleasant. You can fix this by rolling on a couple of coats of gesso and sanding between. I don’t like to have to spend the extra time to do that. However, if I am going to pretexture a canvas with gesso or gel before painting as I often do when working wet and wild, that will remedy the cheap canvas feel. I recommend trying some of each type of canvas to see which you prefer for the techniques that you are using. But I suggest, never buy the canvas with staples on the side . They really are bargain basement and it’s not worth doing good work on that bad a support. And a last note about canvas pad products – the cheaper ones of those are really awful to paint on. Definitely get a good brand such as Fredrix Canvas pads. It’s still cheaper than a prestretched canvas. Happy painting! 
Still Life Painting

New Palette Suggestion

If you have taken art courses from me, you know that I don’t buy a fancy palette. I use a piece of white cardboard. Most often this is the center piece cut from a white mat board. On top of that, I used to use a piece of wax paper. Recently a student told me that parchment paper worked better. It is less porous, and will take more scrubbing without deteriorating. The advantage is the same. Instead of having to wash a palette, I simply pull off the used parchment paper and put a fresh piece on when the old piece has become too messy. I use sticky tac on the back of the cardboard for fast and easy switching of the paper. I’m all for anything that makes for more painting time, and less clean up time!