Apr 10, 2018

Sorolla and the Concept of Color Temperature...

First, let me begin by saying that Color Temperature is one of the worst explained aspects of painting....

Too often a teacher either doesn’t understand it himself, or she makes it sound more complicated than it is. This leaves a student struggling with trying to see what is being talked about before giving up frustration. Or worse, the student comes to believe color temperature is not a real thing. Which is unfortunate, because seeing, understanding, and learning how to accentuate color temperature can transform your work – indoors or out.

I think of color temperature the same way I think about cooking. Until recently, food scientists firmly believed there were only four flavors the human tongue could taste: Sweet, Sour, Bitter, and Salt. But now, most culinary experts agree there is a fifth flavor – Umami – the flavor of meat. It is a concentrated sensation found in grilled meat, mushrooms, and many fermented foods as well. A taste we all love...

Color temperature is similar to Umami in the sense that once you know it exists you start seeing it everywhere. And when you do, you never stop seeing it again. 

So okay, how do you start seeing color temperature?

First, it is important to understand that color temperature has nothing to do with a single color or hue. A yellow, orange, red, purple, blue, or greens by itself is not inherently warm or cool. Color temperature is defined by the relationship between two or more hues! The relationship between a green and a blue (top left). Between an orange and a purple (middle). And even a red and a slightly different red (bottom left). In all cases, one hue will appear to be warmer or cooler than the other. To what degree they will appear to be warmer or cooler depends upon where each hue sits on the color wheel. Or, to be more precise, how close a hue is positioned to the color yellow or purple. The French Impressionists discovered this principle while painting snow outdoors: the hue closest to yellow is the warmer of the two. The hue that sits closest to purple is cooler. It’s really that simple.

Okay, so why does this matter?

Landscape and figurative painters, such as Sorolla, understood that on a sunny day, the areas of light will appear warmer if the shadows in close proximity are being influenced by the cooler light bouncing in from the sky. Thus, on a sunny day the temperature relationship between a color lit by the sun, and the same color that passes into a shadow, will be warm and cool. For example, if you set out to paint a white shirt going from light into shadow you can see the white in the light contains more yellow; and the white in the shadow is not just darker, it is also a little cooler. The shadow has a bluish/purplish cast (see lower right image). If you maintain this relationship of warm lights/cool shadows consistently throughout the painting you will end up with color harmony – a unified color of light.

When you examine Sorolla’s outdoor work you discover he often pushed his colors in the sunlight more towards the yellow than they actually were. And you also learn he pushed the colors in his shadows towards the blue or purple. This warm/cool temperature shift, or ‘push’, forced a greater separation between the light and shadow masses and also created an optical vibration within the eye. This color vibration was a well understood physiological effect called “Simultaneous Contrast in Hue” and it was first exploited to its fullest extent by painters of Sorolla's generation. In fact, Simultaneous Contrast in Hue was one of the principles that launched Impressionism.

However, as you continue to examine at Sorolla’s work for this effect you find exceptions to the principle of warm lights/cool shadows. (Nothing is art is ever simple, right?) Yet when you find them they turn out to be logical exceptions, easily explained.

Not all light that bounces into a shadow comes from the sky. Some light may be reflecting in from another direction all together. And that light may be of a different color. In Sorolla’s paintings on the left, the sunlight is bouncing up off a beach below onto the underside of the woman's arm. In the middle image, the light can be seen bouncing off the inside of a straw basket that is held tightly against a boy's torso. And on the right, the light is bouncing off the face of a cliff outside the painting, AND bouncing up from the bottom under the water. (Fantastic, yes?) In these three examples the reflected light is so strong it overwhelms the weaker, cooler skylight coming in from above. So exceptions to the warm light/cool shadow principle is limited to specific situations where the color within the shadows are being pushed toward a warmer hue than the sunlight shining down from above. As a result, in comparison, the color of sunlight may appear cooler.

Tricky, yes? Well, not really, once you start looking for such exceptions in real life. And, once you do, you begin to see all kinds of colored light bouncing around in the shadows. And of course, when you include such temperature shifts into your own work it will imbue  a quality of light everyone will love.

My Sorolla video is extensive and filled with a lot of information about color and temperature. In truth, I’ve been working on it over the past five years when I began traveling to view his his masterworks and the places he painted. This demo is a stroke-by-stroke presentation and it runs just over 15 hours from start to finish. It includes detailed explanations of what I am about to do, and explanations while I do it. I talk about the Why, as well as the How because both are critical to fully understand what is happening. Nothing is left out or held back. Nothing is dumbed down. And topics beyond color temperature are explored in detail. I talk about how Sorolla applied his paint. How he altered, edited, and simplified his subjects. How he used his brush at the beginning of a painting, and how he used it at the end. And much, much, more...

So if you are a painter like me, who is in awe of the genius of Sorolla – or if Sorolla is a new artist to you – you can learn a lot about how he worked from this video. Click the link below to receive a time limited special pre-release price. But don't wait. This discount will end the day after its official release, Monday, April 16. 

In this video you will learn how to see, understand, and use color temperature to add vibrancy and life to your own work, just like Sorolla…

   – TJK

Apr 6, 2018

Announcing My First DVD Video Release! Sorolla: Painting the Color of Light...

Hey there Everyone:

It's been a while since I posted to the blog and my wife has been bugging me to get back to it because you readers have changed my life and attitudes about art over the past decade. And so, I shall...

Much has happened within the past few years that pulled me away from this blog. There is only so much time in a day, right? But I am going to commit to offering more tips on painting – and art in general – right here in the near future. 

But first, I want to share the biggest news about me in a long time.


Click to order now...
You can pre-order your own copy right now and receive a pre-release discount – or you can wait to hear about it at the Plein Air Convention & Expo in a few weeks. Or hopefully, you can hear about it from your friends...

This video demonstration focuses on how Sorolla painted. With much attention given to how he used value and color temperature to convey a sense of intense natural sunlight.

While I put a lot of effort into explaining things clearly, nothing has been "dumbed down" or held back during this demo. Having said that, I made sure it includes substantial instruction for both the novice and the advanced painter. In fact, while I do talk about Sorolla's methods and materials at the beginning, this demonstration is more about how Sorolla used color to achieve his astounding effects, how he simplified and composed his subject matter, and how he physically applied and pushed his paint around. You know, the things with move you forward as a painter...

In 'da house', the Museo Sorolla, Madrid...
This three-DVD set contains a complete stroke-by-stroke, start-to-finish demo, with a total run-time of over 15 hours. It also contains many extras, such as a brief overview of Sorolla's life, an explanation of the color theories he incorporated into his work, and an in-depth interview with me hosted by Eric Rhoads, owner and publisher of PleinAir and FineArt Connoisseur Magazines. We talk about how and why I became a painter, what my current artistic interests and influences are, and there is also a select gallery of my artwork that spans the last two decades. So, for those of you who've been asking me for a DVD at my workshops, well – this is the one to get. (In fact, it is the only one to get...ha!)

"How did you do it?... How?"
I started working on this project five years ago when I began traveling to Madrid, Granada, Toledo, New York City, and San Diego to study original Sorolla paintings first-hand, and to visit the places he painted. All of which has been a dream come true for a Sorolla-nut like me.

Now, I am thrilled to offer it to you with the assistance of Streamline Premium Art Video – in HD format, with high production standards, edited for your convenience. I hope you will find this video demonstration a valuable addition to your art library.

And oh yes, please let me know what you think of the demo in the comment section below!...


Nov 16, 2017

Artistic Arsenals...

This is a long lecture, but still an interesting take on the methods, materials, and tools used painters throughout the ages, largely centering on the Old Masters. 

I've always been interested in the way painters can do so much with so little. So if you have 90 minutes or so to watch this video you will likely learn and few things about your chosen craft.

I, for one, wasn't aware that until the mid-19th century, European painters (and thus American painters by default, as well) only had about twenty five colors at their service, with only eight of them being mineral in content. This means the bulk of the colors they had available to work with were somewhat fugative. 

Compared to all the colorants we have today, it is remarkable what could be accomplished.

Think about that the next time you visit your local art store, or order paint online!


Nov 6, 2017

I am an idiot!...

AAARRRGGG! Really, I am an idiot!...

When I announced this workshop way back in June and I USED THE WRONG DATE!...

Well, specifically, I used the WRONG YEAR in the date....

The correct date for this workshop is
December 4th, - 8th, 2017
But don't wait, registration closes this Friday, Nov. 8th!
Five days of intense instruction. Two in the field and three in the SAS studio.

CLICK HERE for more Information, or to Register...
If you live in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, or if you are able to travel at a moment's notice, and would like to take a terrific in-depth, five day indoor/outdoor class with me, you still can.

So this winter, when it is cold and wet, you can pack your paints and come down to the Southwest where you can learn how to go from small to BIG with your paintings! This popular five day outdoor/indoor class will focus on how to collect useful information in the field – by painting, sketching, and taking photographs in the field – and then how to use those references to produce larger works in the comfort of your studio. We will start by spending two days in the Tonto Forest. I will then spend one day at the SAS creating a large painting, demonstrating various techniques and answering your questions. Then, you will have two days to complete a large painting yourself in the SAS studio with personal assistance!

And yes, feel free to call me an idiot. Anytime. I won't argue...

Oct 20, 2017

Plein Air Mexico 2018 | San Miguel de Allende...

A Workshop in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
February 19 - 23, 2018

For more info, visit: PLEIN AIR MEXICO | 2018

Yes, I know, this post is just a shameless plug for an upcoming workshop I've organized for this February. But it is such a fantastic workshop. One of my favorites of the year. 

I've put this trip together three years in a row. And enjoyed co-teaching it with my good friends Anne Blair Brown and Frank Gardner every time, who are also excellent painters and instructors themselves. But the real reason, the best reason, you might want to think about signing on for this winter workshop is – well...

San Miguel de Allende itself, actually.

Sure, Anne, Frank, and I have a lot to offer the novice-to-intermediate painter. (Heck, we have ways to challenge the experienced painter as well.) But we are talking about painting and improving your painting in SMA – one of the most beautiful and exotic colonial Hispanic towns in the world.

You walk the streets of San Miguel and it is as if you have stepped back into the 16th century. You look at all the exuberantly colored walls, the ancient work-eaten doors, and the active open squares. You stop to grab a bite when you are hungry and the food is delicious  It is as if someone has crossed the bistros of Paris with the taco carts of US and Mexico. You look into your wallet and you smile because it feels like you've become a gazillionaire – in pesos.

Then you go paint...

There are books and books and books about San Miguel. Photo albums such as "The Doors of San Miguel". Books about living in San Miguel, such as "On Mexican Time". Books about cooking in San Miguel. Books on making art in San Miguel. There are ex-pats from all over the world living there because the weather is perfect, the life is interesting, and everything is all so civilized. This also means there are many books about how to move to, or retire in, San Miguel. And the copies I have picked up in the restaurants and bars are always well-thumbed through.

Then you go paint some more...

The people of San Miguel are kind, thoughtful, and always happy to see you. They answer your questions, forgive you your elemental Spanish, chuckle, and then offer directions or advice in English.

This will be my sixth?... seventh?... trip to SMA. I have lost count because I keep going back. I keep bringing people with me too because I know many of them will start visiting regularly as well. 


Because it is San Miguel.

If you would like to know why the readers of Condé Nast Traveler continually puts San Miguel de Allende on its
20 Best Places to Visit list each year, come paint in SMA with Frank, Ann, and I. You will fall in love too.

For more info, or to register, visit: http://thokitts.wixsite.com/sma2018

Imagine yourself painting outdoors in warm sunshine in the middle of January. Imagine the bright colors, the indescribable food, and lovely nights and lights of SMA. Bring your spouse, a partner, or a friend. It's all good.

But don't wait. This workshop is already half full and last year we had to put 15 people on the waiting list. Some of them have already signed up for this year...


Jun 27, 2017

Info on Sargent's Watercolor Technique...

Sargent Watercolor Show Review


John Singer Sargent Watercolors: Exhibition Report
 We recently visited the Brooklyn Museum to see the show of John Singer Sargent watercolors. It’s close enough to Montreal that I couldn’t really pass it up. Not and still call myself a serious watercolorist. The exhibit ends July 28, so by the time I post this it’s basically over – however, it comes to the MFA in Boston (Oct 13/13 – Jan 20/14), so that’s another chance for Nor’easterners.
Like most artists, I’ve always admired Sargent’s mastery of calligraphic brushwork in oil. I wasn’t as aware of his watercolors before this show. Which I suppose was the point. The curators have brought together a never-before-seen exhibit. 
So, for those that don’t have a chance to get there in person – here’s my report...

I don't often cross-link to another writer's blog, but here is a link to a fascinating post about Sargent's watercolors. The author, Marc Taro Homes, author of The Urban Sketchbook, took some lovely close ups of JSS's watercolors in the Brooklyn Museum, and his observations with regards to Sargent's use of gouache on top of watercolor and other effects are quite illuminating.

So visit his blog page here and learn something new about Sargent's technique...

It looks like I'll be in Boston next October while this show is there so I'll add to Marc's report when I see it.



Jun 22, 2017

Workshop Announcement: Drawing for the Plein Air Painter...

Announcing my Summer 3-Day Workshop...

Sauvie Island, near Portland, Oregon

Cost: $450

Learn to paint with your pencil or charcoal! Become more skilled at composing your paintings before you pick up a brush. When you paint alla prima en plein air you must work quickly and state things in a clear and concise way. This class will focus on how to create a dynamic design using the light and shadow pattern Nature provides. There will be fundamentals, but also advanced concepts as well. So learn how to stitch smaller bits and pieces into larger, more unified masses. Create dynamic compositions by pitting light against dark, and dark against light. Downplay the line work and emphasize the shapes. The things you learn in this three day outdoor class will improve your painting in every way possible, indoors or out.

This workshop will focus on: 

How to simplify the complex values you see

How to exploit the power of positive and negative shapes

How to transform natural light into beautiful rhythmic patterns and punctuated marks

How to find or create pleasing proportions

And much more…

The material list for this workshop is minimal. All you will need are some soft vine charcoal sticks, a few kneadable erasers, a few pencils, a medium-sized drawing pad, a lap board or portable easel. (And of course, a chair if you must sit down.)

My thirty years of painting outdoors has lead me to teaching design and composition in the simplest way possible, by drawing outdoors. Each day I will present ideas and demos and share the decisions I make in real time as I work. You will receive helpful direction and valuable one-on-one critique and a group discussion will be held daily. With this class, it is my goal to help you become more sensitive to the potential of conscious design.

Do not underestimate the power of this workshop to improve your work! I have spent many years teaching students how to paint and this class is specifically designed to share what every outdoor landscape painter should know about value and composition. Sure, you will just be drawing, but what you will learn 0ver these three days will impact your painting for a long, long time. Why? Because the value decisions you make from the first stroke in paint must be solid. And drawing is a faster path to gaining that skill...

Registration is now open. Class size is limited to maintain maximum quality instructor time. To register, email Thomas at: