Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Glow Factor

The Glow Factor

There is an artist whose paintings I love. I don’t want to say his name because I don’t know if that is appropriate. He can take scenes of urban blight and make them beautiful. I look at his paintings over and over, and I think, “How does he do it?” How does he take a painting of an ally, an overpass, a gutter, or a streetlamp, and make me want to hang it on my wall?

I notice that he allows bright toned underpaintings to show through, he leans towards strong split-complimentary color schemes, and loose brush strokes with flat brushes. His skies have bands of surreal color in them. He is not afraid to use gray and black. But when I try these things, I somehow miss that special something.

One day I noticed it: his paintings “glow”. The focal point is not the streetlamp, the guardrail, the shopping cart, or the bus; it is the GLOW of the backlight, the reflected light, or the direct light glaring into your eyes. I looked at each of his paintings again, and I saw it over and over: they GLOW.

This reminded me of some paintings by the old masters: the glow of pink cherub cheeks, the glow of a snowy bosom, or the glow of beautiful buns.

I looked through all my paintings, and even though many of them were accurate with their lights and shadows, none of them glowed. When I double-checked my photo sources, I had picked photos that also didn’t glow. There was no strong backlighting, no beautiful reflected light, no overwhelming glare.

It is easy to draw a glow: you just make radiating lines around whatever is glowing, such as a light bulb, a diamond, a candle, etc. Then you put sparkle symbols on nearby things that catch the glow.

This artist seems to do this too: he takes one thing and gives it the most light. Everything else is a little darker. Then he puts subtle highlights on nearby things that are catching that glow. He is a master, and I am just a beginner, but I am going to try to incorporate the glow factor into my paintings.

Kalalau Trail

Oil on Canvas Board

I was looking for something to paint, and my stepson Matt said, “Do you want to look at the pictures from Hawaii?” I picked this one and I tried to do it all in one day. When it was all dry I still had to touch up the highlights. Overall, I am very happy with it. I am trying to paint more loosely.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Snowy Barracks

Oil on Canvas Board
11 x 14

My nephew Kevin took this picture while in the Marines. He said it is Camp Warrior in Korea, about 1 mile from the DMZ. I was trying to make this painting “Bill Wray” Style, but that it hard to do, since I am not Bill Wray. (

The buildings in the photo were khaki brown, and I was struck by the contrast of the lavender hills and the gold grass.

People said the photo was too boring to be a painting, but I REALLY liked it. I tried to keep the values of the buildings the consistent, while incorporating various greens, blues and purples to give them a “colorist” look. I love how Bill Wray uses power lines so effectively in his urban landscapes, and I tried to emulate that, but I cannot handle the knife like he can – yet.

I hope you like it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Red Window

Oil on Canvas Board
11 x 14.

This is from a photo in the Wet Canvas Image Reference Library. Thank you very much to the contributor.

I am working on getting looser, and trying to do the Sergei Bongart style. He is my new infatuation. I know this is not EXACTLY like him, but it's sort of like, if you want to play piano like Fats Waller, you better get Boogie-Woogie down first.