10 things to keep in mind when taking an art workshop

How to get the best results from your next art workshop.

The Painting Purge - Cleaning the studio to achieve fresh ideas.

Whatever your level of experience, workshops are a super fun way to learn new art tricks and expand your skills.  

Swinton’s is gearing up for summer workshop season and we have more than ever to choose from.  As an instructor, head wrangler, and an active participant, I have some insights of what to consider when choosing a workshop and how to get the best results...

The Painting Purge

Getting rid of studio clutter to achieve new directions.

The Painting Purge - Cleaning the studio to achieve fresh ideas.

For some artists, the studio becomes a dumping ground for unresolved artwork and everything else that doesn’t seem to have a home. Although you may not be conscious of it, the clutter in your workspace competes for your attention, resulting in decreased performance and increased stress.

When you are surrounded by unresolved paintings, your brain can’t help but continually try to work out possible solutions instead of focusing on fresh possibilities.

Finding ways to un-clutter will give you a sense of power and a freed mind, leaving more room for you to be creative...

The Secret Curve

Using convex vs. concave lines in life drawing.

The Secret Curve - Convex vs Concave Lines in Figure Drawing

There’s a little secret in life drawing that not many artists know about. If you know about it you’re already using it, if not, you will start after reading this article.

It can be our little secret. 

Here it is: If you want your figure to have a natural look, use convex (outy lines) and not concave (inny lines).

Why? Everything alive starts as a molecule and begins to grow. Growing is an outward motion. As things grow, they begin to take on a bulge toward the outwards or convex.

(I think my stomach adopted this law too personally.) 

The Magic of the 70/30 Split

Using opposites to create a dynamic painting.

The Magic of the 70/30 Split - Using opposites to create a dynamic painting.

Good painting is all about opposites. Warm vs.cool, big vs. small, colourful vs. dull, etc. When we use opposites in our work, they play off of each other to create dynamic excitement and heighten the visual appeal.

Warm colours allow cool colours to sing. Big shapes concede to the small shapes, allowing them to dance joyfully. Colours burst when placed in a sea of grey.

The key is to avoid using the same amount of opposition. When you split the opposites into equal parts you negate the effect.

Let’s go down the rabbit hole and explore how all of this works…

Painting Beyond Chaos - Simplification and Massing

How to simplify your subject to produce a better painting.

Painting Beyond Chaos - Simplification and Massing - Doug Swinton

The busier the scene the easier it is to paint.

I know this sounds odd but a chaotic scene has a way of being easier to paint than something overly simple. Large empty/flat areas with little information can be hard to handle because there aren’t enough visual clues to glean ideas from.

Your subject (nature, photo reference, still-life, figure) can sometimes seem to have so much complex information that it becomes hard to decide what it is you want to paint, but at least there is something to work with. It’s just a matter of learning to read beyond the chaos and find the story that lies within. Here is how:

Why do I get worse the longer I paint?

How do you know if you're making progress?

Apples and Oranges - Adeline Halverson

I recently read Adeline Halverson’s blog post “WHY DO I GET WORSE THE LONGER I PAINT” and because I frequently hear this question myself I asked Adeline for permission to share the article with you. I’m sure you will agree she tackles a lot of painting issues that need to be addressed.

Enjoy our guest blogger Adeline Halverson and don’t forget to leave her a comment below…

Photo Reference • Print vs Monitor

Painting from a reference in your art studio.

Photos vs Monitor - Doug Swinton

I love painting from life. The challenge of rendering what I see in front of me into a painting is one of the greatest joys in my life.  

Mechanical means of “observation” such as photography, remove most of the personal experience one has when painting from life.  Though a camera is technically brilliant, it feels nothing toward the subject. It has no understanding of what is being recorded. It simply records a flat representation and leaves out the countless stimuli an artist can experience when creating a painting.

In Praise of Painterly Painters

by Charles Movalli

Color Perception

"The piano ain’t got no wrong notes."
Thelonius Monk

While looking through some old notes I had taken a few years ago I came across this article I had photocopied. There ain’t no wrong way to paint but this version of how to paint really speaks to me. It was penned by Charles Movalli, a fantastic painter and an even more dynamic teacher...

Charles Movalli is one of Cape Ann’s best known painters and teachers. Born the son of artists in Gloucester, MA in 1945, Movalli became an art teacher, influential art editor and writer but above all, he is a painter. His dramatic brushwork creates the vibrant lighting and sense of movement that captures the essence of a scene.


Colour - Understanding vs. Perception

Developing superior colour sensitivity • by Michael Downs

Color Perception

Sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch… these are the five basic senses that perceive external stimuli which in turn are interpreted by our brains. Each sense can be refined with training, practice, and experience.

Sommeliers train their palates for tasting the subtle flavors within a good wine; conductors train their ears for hearing the nuance of sounds within an orchestra; and hence, painters should train their eyes for seeing variation of colors within their subject matter.

Identifying and Painting Tricky Values Accurately

Light colours in shadow & dark colours in light • Art Lesson by Doug Swinton

Identifying and Painting Values Accurately

This art lesson deals with a simple idea which is often under-utilized or overlooked by most artists. It explains how to accurately recognize and render light values living in the shadow family and dark values living in the light family...

Before you even begin, make sure you have a good source to paint from. Without good lights and shadows in your reference the painting will end up looking flat. Now try to separate your scene into the light and shadow families. Accurate separation of lights and darks makes for a more pleasing painting.

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