Jul 23, 2019

Sorolla's Color Palette – Outdoors, from about 1905 on...

Sorolla's Outdoor Palette

Below is a pdf that lists the outdoor color palette preferred by Sorolla from about 1905 on. It also offers a few contemporary alternate palettes you can use to achieve similar mixes.

I am posting it for you, my loyal blog readers, and for those in Ireland who will be attending my upcoming 90 minute lecture on Sorolla and his outdoor methods, during Wexford's 2019 Art in the Open.

Joaquín Sorolla: Painting Techniques Of A Spanish Master
August 4th, Wexford, Ireland

Enjoy, and keep painting!...


Apr 16, 2019

Remaining 2019 Workshop with Thomas...

Hey All:

Just a quick reminder about the remaining workshops I have scheduled for 2019...

Visit my workshop page for more info: 

(Detailed PDFs for each workshop are downloadable at the link)

Also, if you are specifically interested in my upcoming Monhegan Island workshop – what will be my show piece for 2019 – please be aware that after June 24th the rates for your lodgings go up, the selection may go down, and reservations will become more difficult to find.

Most of the others are over 1/2 full and one is almost max'ed out...


Feb 25, 2019

Berthe Morisot and her Brushwork...

I received an email today requesting me for a quick take about how Berthe Morisot painted. I thought my reply might be interesting to you readers, so here it is...

On Feb 25, 2019, at 11:36AM, Malcolm wrote: 
19911537896_483614173a_b.jpgMr. Kitts,

I received your email this morning about the micro and macrocosm of your painting brushwork and enjoyed the video. Very nice surfaces!
This evening I will purchase, and watch, your ‘Sergeant' video and hopefully that video will answer a question that I have about gestural brushwork.

But in case it does not I am also sending you this email to ask: in the attached image of the Berthe Morisot painting the brush work is very loose and superimposed over other brushwork, what medium (if any) would she have mixed with her oils to achieve those flowing strokes? They are fluid and almost translucent in areas.

And my reply...

Hello Malcom. Thank you for your email.

First, the recent Video Demonstration you mentioned focuses exclusively on Sorolla, not Sargent. Just want you to know that before you purchase it. But that Sorolla demo is more in line with the way I painted the Micro/Macro Five Palms painting than any Sargent methods. In fact. I was sticking pretty close to Sorolla’s mature technique as I painted it. And yes, there will be a comprehensive Sargent DVD demo as some point. I just haven’t scheduled it yet.

I don’t consider myself an authority on Morisot per se but I can make a few educated guesses based upon what I know about the materials and methods in use at the time. Although, it is important to understand that very few artists worked the same way, with the same technique and materials, over the entire course of their lifetime. So the conclusions I draw here should be considered merely quick generalizations, and not encompassing in how Berthe always worked…

Berthe Morisot, The Artist's Daughter Julie with her Nanny
click to enlarge

First, I have attached a large jpg of a different Berthe Morisot painting (above). It was probably executed close to the time of the painting you shared. You should be able to zoom into this file and see distinct layers of paint, which may help answer your questions. (I have even larger files, but this image should suffice.)

And please remember, the following observations I have offer below refer to the image above, not the one you attached to your original email to me...
1. In both of these examples, Berthe was painting on a tightly woven linen support. The linen would likely to have been ‘gessoed’ with a lead oil ground, a common practice at that time and it is a nice surface to paint on even today. Try it yourself. Your ground will dictates what happens with your brushstrokes. 
2. The prepared ground was stained with a pigmented earth color, likely a burnt umber from the look of it. The wash would have been applied thinly using a solvent, likely turpentine, and left to dry before starting the painting. I say dry because there is no softening or diffusion in the lower layers of paint that sits directly on the ground. 
3. The paint pigment itself can contribute to the character of her brush work. Berthe is painting with a palette used by most of the original French Impressionists of this period. Cad Yellows to Reds, and I am guessing Prussian and Colbalt Blue, a Viridian or Emerald Green, and a few assorted earth colors such as Umbers, Ochres, and Siennas. And she was definitely using a Lead White. No black. There may be additional pigments involved as well, but if so they aren’t obvious to the eye and it would require some lab tests to determine what else is there. But largely, it is the lead white that is facilitating the thick ropey impasto character to Berthe's marks, and the drags, pulls, and the way the paint breaks at the edges and ends of her strokes. 
4. Look at how the paint is applied. Either as a few thin washes (underneath), with little attempts to model form (except in the hair), or it has been applied is thick and full-bodied, with each stroke retaining its individual character and gesture. Not a lot in between. I see no visible slumping of the impasto as it set so there probably isn't any fatty oil or medium incorporated beyond whatever may already be in the paint itself. Again, this would be a common way of painting for the French Impressionists because most of the leaders of that movement eschewed a glossy surface or overly mixed their colors. They felt such practices detracted from the optical partitive effect they were pursuing. They liked to allow flecks of pure color sparkle amongst the other mixes, sometimes analogous, sometimes complementary, unlike the academic painters of the same time who tended to mic 'dead' color and or glaze over underlying hues. The French Impressionists, such as Berthe, also likely to push one wet pure color into another on the canvas, rather than mixing everything with a knife on a palette. (Variations of this abound.) And, in the child's lacy collar you can see a ‘double-loading’ where Berthe picks up two colors on her brush before dragging it across the surface. An entirely different kind of blend. This was also common to impressionists of the period. 
5. Berthe is using a stiff haired brush, likely hog hair, and even more likely, a combination of few different-sized filberts or short stubby flats with grounded corners. She applies restrained touches of color with small round every now and then for the fine details, such as the eyes and eyebrows, but she isn’t using the small round to render out or ‘detail' things like hair or drapery. All of that are big gutsy pulls with a loaded brush. 
6. And finally, look at the directional gesture of her strokes. She often pulls them in alignment, sometimes changing the direction to follow along the surface planes of her subjects – look at the shoulders of both figures – and sometimes simply pulled along the side of a flat shape, like the side of the mother’s face. Other times her strokes are short and multi-directional. Both contribute to the activity you feel on the surface. The French Impressionists often used such brushwork to convey the crisp sparkling of light. 
Conclusion: So on a quick review, based on this painting and others I have seen first-hand, I don’t think Berthe used much painting medium at all, beyond a little turpentine at the outset. I don’t see any evidence that turps were used towards the end since the nature of the strokes on top belies it. With one exception being the isolated brilliant cobalt or ultramarine blue strokes representing the nanny's left wrist cuff. That is clearly an improvisational turpentine wash of pure color on top of dry paint below.
And in your opinion would that painting be completed in one sitting or over many days? 
Both paintings look as though they were executed all prima, or completed within a single session. Perhaps there may be a few areas that were further worked after the initial paint layer had dried, maybe as corrections, but given how the layers of paint ‘break’ and overlap those re-workings would be minimal. And there is no sign of Berthe working fresh paint into or on top of an ‘oiled out’ area, which is how some painters of this era made multiple session paintings look as if they were a one-shot wonder...

Malcom, I hope this information is helpful as you continue to study Berthe Morisot. But be sure to look at as many original paintings by her as you can find. 

And of course...keep painting! 



And for those interested in practical painting lessons:

Workshops!... Workshops!... Workshops!...

It's that time of year when some of you look for Summer and Fall workshops. Click here to learn about my upcoming classes with detailed downloadable info. But don't delay, most classes are about half-full as of this posting.

Feb 24, 2019

The Macro and the Micro of Oil Painting

I recently completed a large painting of a group of California Washington Palms that grow in an oasis near Palms Springs, CA These palms (Washingtonia filiferaoften wear a long skirt and tend to clump around a desert spring, or wherever water may be found close to the surface. These palms are near the mouth of Indian Canyon, where native Americans once harvested them for fruit.

Here is a sweeping video with close up shots that present the painting's color, texture, and brush strokes up close. I want to share how the painting looks when you stand ten feet back, and how it looks when you are close enough to press your nose against the paint. (Something I have been known to do in some of the finest museums in the world.) Why? Because I am fascinated by how the grand masters can use paint to create an illusion of reality, yet also play around with the paint as they do so, and transform what they see into abstract color, shape, and movement. So I guess, as you watch this video I want you to also experience the concrete nature of my subject, yet never forget you are – in truth – only looking at paint.

(Can't see this video? Click here...)

"Five Palms", Indian Canyon, near Palm Springs CA
48 x 72 inches, oil on linen

I invite you to enlarge the video and crank up the sound. But before pressing play, confirm you are connected to WiFi or have an unlimited cell plan because this video is large.

Workshops!... Workshops!... Workshops!...

It's that time of year when some of you look for Summer and Fall workshops. Click here to learn about my upcoming classes with detailed downloadable info. But don't delay, most classes are about half-full as of this posting.

Feb 14, 2019

Polarizing the Light to Photograph your Paintings without Glare...

Not the way to do it...
© Trevor Taylor 2019
I am often asked what is the best way to photograph a painting, especially if it has a glossy finish – and while my answer can range between shooting it outdoors on an overcast day, or in the shade, and digitally correcting the color for the inevitable shift that will occur – I think Trevor Taylor has detailed an easy low-cost way to shoot your work in your studio. Trevor's method is exactly what I pay a pro to do when I don't want the hassle of photographing my own work.

The cleverest part in Trevor's post is how to use cardboard boxes to hold the polarizing filters to the aluminum clamp housings, and +90 CRI index GE Reveal™ Lightbulbs for full-spectrumlight. Once you get the gear and set up your studio, shooting your work becomes easy. 

One thing to note, however, is that when you polarize the light your paintings will look as though they have gained in contrast, especially in the dark passages. (They may even appear a little warmer in overall hue.) This is because the polarizing also eliminates the subtle 'velvet' (soft reflectivity) you are used to seeing in those darks – not because you are doing something wrong. So if the appearance of extra contrast is an issue you will still need to digitally fuss with the image after each shot.

(Re-published with the author's permission © Trevor Taylor 2019)

How To Eliminate Glare When Photographing Artwork 
The first impression of your artwork matters most and in today’s age that will most likely be a photo. You may need to submit pieces to galleries, post on social media, send out newsletters, or update your website. Whatever it is, paintings are notoriously difficult to photograph but paying for professional shots for each piece quickly adds up. Thankfully, a small investment and a little practice will give you great results, perfect for online use and even small art prints or reproductions...
(to continue reading Trevor's blog post, click below...)

And if you would like to see more of Trevor's work visit his website here:

Thank you Trevor for allowing me to share this tip with my readers!...


Feb 1, 2019

My New Article about Painting on Monhegan Island in PleinAir Magazine is Now Out...

I just had an article published in the Feb/Mar issue of PLEINAIR MAGAZINE about my recent trip to Monhegan Island, Maine. 
In it, I share the pure joy of painting without purpose. If you are a subscriber, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed living and writing it. If you aren't subscribed, a copy can be purchased at your local magazine shop. If you must wait, I will publish it in full in three months. (Publisher's requirement.)
And yes – as my article says – I will be teaching a week-long plein air workshop this August on Monhegan. This will be a rare workshop from me, open to ALL mediums. I've already reserved accommodations for you in the grand old Island Inn, and in the artists' cottage Zimmie's – and I've put together an exciting itinerary for everyone to paint. So all you have to do is show up with your gear. 
Come join me, and experience the historic beauty of one of America's greatest art colonies! Paint in the footsteps of George Bellows, Robert Henri, Frederick Judd Waugh, Rockwell Kent, Kate Chappel, Elena Jahn, Lynne Drexler, and the three generations of N.C., Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth.

But don't delay: an announcement has already gone out to my Early Bird Workshop Notification List and folks are now signing up...

To learn more about this, and my other workshops, visit: 

Pictured above: An old postcard looking out over the dock, near Fish Beach.
Believe me when I say things have not changed all that much today – TJK

Jan 25, 2019

Registration for my 2019 Plein Air Workshops is now open!...

Some of you have been looking ahead to the upcoming plein air season and asking about my classes... And finally, here they are! Three new locations in my yearly rotation: Charleston SC (sorry, now full), Wexford, Ireland (one day) and Monhegan Island ME (seven days). All great places to work on your outdoor painting skills. Plus two more listed below...

You can read all about my 2018 trip to Monhegan Island in this month's issue of PleinAir Magazine. (PAM's 2019 workshop guide shown left). My time on the island was a restorative week of quiet introspection, drawing, and painting for fun – oh and yes – scouting for my new Monhegan workshop listed above. If you don't already know, Monhegan is a famously beautiful place to paint, with a rich history of American artists working and living there. I've ALREADY got fantastic lodgings reserved for you so you won't have to find them yourself. (It's a small island, wait too long and they can be hard to get.) I expect Plein Air Monhegan to fill fast, starting this week, so don't delay if you want to join us.

And yes, this September I will offer something I've never offered before... I've scheduled two of my most popular Portland, OR, outdoor classes – Drawing for the Plein Air Painter & Painting for the Plein Air Painter – back-to-back so you can experience a two-week intensive plein air study like nowhere else. (Of course, you can take just one or the other if you prefer, but two weeks focused on landscape en plein air? Wow!) 

To learn more about these classes, click Plein Air Everywhere!...

Once you've read up let me know if you want to register!...