Studio Notes // 004: Monumental Art and Modern Still Life

Studio Notes // 004: Monumental Art and Modern Still Life

Every few weeks, I share my top art inspirations that I’ve read, experimented with or listened to. Here’s this weeks edition of things I enjoyed when I should have been at the easel, with the hope they might inspire your own work too…

I’ve enjoyed watching:

Studio Notes // 004: Monumental Art and Modern Still Life

Documentary: Christo and Jeanne Claude: Monumental Art

I found this a really inspirational journey, documenting the lengths and dedication that artists can go to, to bring their vision to life. Christo’s projects are self-funded by his own preparatory drawings, and some of the planning stages span over 10yrs for the installation of art pieces that are temporary in nature. The scale and impact of the pieces are awesome!

Art finds:

Studio Notes // 004: Monumental Art and Modern Still Life

Artemisia Gentileschi, Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria (detail),

The National Gallery, London, has a page dedicated to the latest arrivals into their collection. A recent highlight is this beautiful self-portrait by Artemisia Gentileschi. Students painting with the grisaille portrait method (from the Oil Portrait Glazing Course) may be interested in having a zoom in on the face, and you can just make out the underlying grey tones.

(You can learn more about the oil grisaille method in this series of blog posts.)

On my Easel this week:

Studio Notes // 004: Monumental Art and Modern Still Life

I’ve been in the studio working on a couple of new courses looking at a modern & classical still life using a limited palette of materials. Inspired by our one hour morning paintings, the modern composition should be released first, hopefully in the next month or so.

Have a creative week!

Cheers,
Will

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A Daily Dose of Painting Courage (And Overcoming Masterpiece Anxiety)

A Daily Dose of Painting Courage (And Overcoming Masterpiece Anxiety)

The first painting I remember having an immense amount of pressure to get right was in my GCSE art exam.

For the final piece, I had moved into new territory and arranged my own setup of objects in front of my easel.

I thought a still life would be the easiest choice for a timed study.

It felt doable and I was too nervous to tackle a portrait. I also knew there were a few rules I should stick to.

A harmonious colour palette, good placement of objects and strong directional light.

After moving a vase, a bottle of wine and a bunch of grapes around for a little longer than anticipated, I reckoned I should just get on with it.

And some aspects of the finished painting worked ok, they really did.

My drawing wasn’t bad and the composition balanced but the hardest job was judging the colours from life. The light kept changing, I remember desperately trying to block off bits of the window and the immense pressure to create a ‘finished piece’ really lost all the logic and joy of observation.

I know we don’t often find ourselves in art exams, but the same pressure of having to make a great painting every time we pick up the brush often results in unfinished work or worse, unstarted work!

I’ve found the best way to get around this and bring spontaneity back into my studio is to try and paint daily.

Do a quick small study of something I already have lying around the house, try a new technique, colour palette and subject with no expectation.

Just thoroughly engage in the process.

A Daily Dose of Painting Courage (And Overcoming Masterpiece Anxiety)

15-min sketch of garlic onto Raw Umber & Titanium White Ground.

A Daily Dose of Painting Courage (And Overcoming Masterpiece Anxiety)

A Daily Dose of Painting Courage (And Overcoming Masterpiece Anxiety)

45-minute total painting time.

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7 Ways to Stop Acrylic Paint Drying too Fast

acrylic-slow-drying-mediums

Acrylics are a great medium. Pick up a few well-chosen materials, and after a simple set up, you can paint on almost any surface.

But.

They dry quickly. And sometimes really quickly.

If you’re new to painting, the seriousness of this small window of free-flowing acrylics begins to dawn on you, little by little.

The paints don’t seem to blend quite as well as they did when you first put them out on your palette. In fact, that expensive paint you took so long deciding on has now gone completely hard, and there’s a distinctive shift in colour.

This is not just frustrating but feels like an undisclosed complication.

You thought it was going to be getting the painting techniques right that would be difficult, not battling with the paint drying out too quickly.

So how do you stop it from happening?

Paint faster? Invest in specialist paint mediums? Use a broom rather than a brush?

Humidity

Everything revolves around evaporation.

Controlling water evaporation is the key principle to manipulating the drying time of your acrylics.

Acrylics dry by evaporation. So, the wetter the air around the acrylics, the longer they stay wet. You might be painting in a dry climate and not realise how much that affects the paints’ workability.

The drier the air, the faster the acrylics will dry.

  • Wet air (around acrylics) – paints stay wetter.
  • Dry air (around acrylics) – paints dry out quicker.

humidity-monitor-acrylics

In my studio, I’ve got a humidity and temperature monitor. This helps to keep an eye on the water content of the space, so I can adapt my techniques if needed.

I’ve noticed when I’m painting near the coast, and there’s a higher amount of water in the atmosphere, the paints will keep working for a lot longer. If you are based in an extremely dry climate, you could introduce a humidifier into your space that will emit steam or water vapour to increase the air’s moisture levels.

Heavy Body Acrylics under ambient conditions of 70ºF/21ºC and 30% Relative Humidity in a 0.15mm brush stroke.

wet: under 5 minutes
workable:  10 minutes
touch dry: 30 minutes
locked down: 3+ days

Temperature & Air Flow

If it’s a hot summer day, you might have placed an air conditioning unit or fan next to your painting space; this will shorten the working time of the paints as airflow aids water evaporation, definitely something to consider.

Pro tip: It’s also handy to check the ambient temperature of your studio. If you drop below 9° C, it can cause issues when creating a strong paint film.

Acrylics are ideally used at room temperature, above 60° F / 16° C, and avoiding any applications below 49° F / 9° C, which is the so-called “minimum film formation” temperature (MFFT). Below that temperature acrylic paint cannot form a strong, coherent film and will be prone to failure and various drying defects, such as cracks, poor adhesion, and cloudiness – Golden Paints 

On top of your studio environment, there are a few successful ways to manipulate the drying times of acrylics by controlling evaporation. However, I don’t use them all in one painting but pick and choose whatever would work best for the style or stage of the piece I’m working on at the time.

How would you speed up the drying time?

Here’s an inversion thought experiment.

What would you do if you had to dry acrylic paint as fast as possible?

Paint in a thin layer? Warm room? Wind turbine? Sunshine? …Blow torch?

If I had to get a painting to dry as quickly as possible, I’d use a hairdryer on thin paint. High airflow, high heat, about 1 cm from the paint surface! This expels water the quickest from the paint.

And this knowledge is the secret to your success.

All we have to do is work on the opposites.

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Starter Set Challenge: Acrylic Street Scene – A Mediterranean Washing Line

Starter Set Challenge: Acrylic Street Scene - A Mediterranean Washing Line

Will Kemp, A Mediterranean Washing Line, Detail, Acrylic on Board

For this week’s free step-by-step acrylic lesson, we’re returning to the gorgeous faded paintwork and quiet cobblestone streets of Corsica.

After the challenging perspective in our first Starter Set Challenge ‘Warm Shadows in Corsica’ the simpler shapes and clear blue sky of ‘A Mediterranean Washing Line‘ should be plain sailing.

I particularly love the multiple wires threading your eye towards the sea in this scene and the washing strung up between the buildings brings a human presence of day-to-day life, breathing real energy into the composition.

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Starter Set Challenge – Painting Street Scenes with Acrylics

acrylic-starter-set-challenge

Will Kemp, Warm Shadows in Corsica, Acrylic On Board (detail)

It’s hard to believe that city breaks, art exhibitions and museum visits were something we used to enjoy almost casually.

Here in the U.K, we’re back in another full lockdown, a cold and wet one!

I was looking through some photos from last summer’s trip to Corsica needing a bit of escapism. They instantly transported me back to the atmosphere, the colours and smells, meandering down sun-dappled side streets, ice cream in hand with the anticipation of undiscovered delights around the next corner.

Drawing and painting can be very therapeutic; so with that in mind, I’ve created a couple of acrylic step-by-step street scenes to help get us through the next few weeks.

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How to Loosen up your Acrylic Paintings – Impressionistic Apples Tutorial

How to Loosen up your Acrylic Paintings - Impressionistic Apples Tutorial

Morning class, this week we’re going to look at how to paint fast and loose with your acrylics in this two-part apple study.
I get lots of emails from students who want to develop a more painterly impressionistic style but find when using a photo reference; they get too obsessed with the details, and the whole piece gets a bit overworked.

So in the first lesson of this two-part still life, I approach the drawing out of our apples in a bit more detail. The method I demonstrate is sometimes called ‘Envelope Drawing’ and is an approach that helps you to draw something more accurately.

In the second lesson, we approach the painting without pre-mixing the colours using our intuition and being a bit looser with our brush marks I’ve used a limited palette and simple painterly techniques with just two brushes and four colours.

Why are we drawing more accurately when we want to paint looser?

Well, it depends.

It depends on your skill level of drawing.

If you’re pretty good at drawing, then ideally you’d go straight in with your paintbrush and draw and paint at the same time, so you’re essentially drawing with your brush. That’s how you get the loosest, freshest paintings.

But if you’re a complete beginner, then spending the time getting the drawing accurate is a more failsafe way of creating a painting that looks loose but captures the subject. It gives you the confidence to paint more loosely knowing you’ve got a good structure underneath.

I paint this study with acrylics, but you could also use water-mixable oils.

So grab a brew, a couple of biscuits, and you can download a reference image below to follow along with the video.

How to paint loose with Acrylics – Part 1 – Drawing

How to paint loose with Acrylics – Part 2 – Painting

Downloading the reference photograph

The photo below can be downloaded, so you can use it as a reference image, print it out and follow along with the steps below.

How to Loosen up your Acrylic Paintings - Impressionistic Apples Tutorial

You can download a larger 30 x 30 cm version of the image here.

Materials you will need:

  • 30 x 30cm canvas or board or you could work on a smaller square

Paints:

I use Artist Quality acrylics but you follow along with any brand.

For the coloured ground:

  • Raw Umber (Golden Paints)
  • Ultramarine Blue (Golden Paints)
  • Titanium White (Golden Paints)

For the painting:

  • Titanium White (Golden Paints)
  • Cadmium Yellow Light (Golden Paints)
  • Ultramarine Blue (Golden Paints)
  • Burnt Umber (Winsor & Newton)

Brushes:

  • Isacryl Filbert, 6572, Size 6 (Isabey)
  • Small round synthetic (any brand is fine)
  • 1 1/2 inch XL Elite Monarch decorators brush (Purdy)

Extra tools

  • An HB Pencil – (I use a Kuru Toga Roulette Mechanical Pencil 0.5mm Uniball)
  • An Eraser – (I use a Putty Eraser by Faber Castell)
  • Burnt Umber chisel nib acrylic marker (Liquitex)
  • Delacroix Charcoal & Pencil fixative (Sennelier)
  • Acrylic Glazing Liquid Gloss (Golden Paints)
  • Palette Knife (I use a diamond shape size 45 by RGM)
  • Metal dipper or small pot for mediums
  • Jam Jar for water

I’m using a 30 x 30 cm cotton canvas and I toned my canvas by applying a diluted grey mix that matched the colour of the linen in the reference image.

A coloured ground helps to take away the glare of the white canvas and gives me a head start – if you want to learn more about the benefits of painting on a coloured ground see: How a prepared canvas can drastically improve your paintings

Line drawing

Here is the line reference image from the end of Part 1.

How to Loosen up your Acrylic Paintings - Impressionistic Apples Tutorial

 You can download a larger 20 x 20cm image of the line drawing here:

Finished Painting

How to Loosen up your Acrylic Paintings - Impressionistic Apples Tutorial

I really hope you enjoy the lesson, have a great festive week!

Cheers,

Will

 

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Thanksgiving Thanks!

Thanksgiving Thanks!

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’ve been reflecting on all the positivity and creativity that has come through the Art School blog this year.

It has been such a hugely challenging time for us all, and it’s been so uplifting to hear about students that found painting a positive focus during lockdown.

It puts my day on a real high when I open my mailbox to see beginners painting successes, the progress that students make daily is fantastic; you are all such an inspiration!

Have a great weekend,

Will

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Acrylic Painting Tutorial – Fishing Boats in St Ives Harbour

fishing-boats-st-ives

Longing for the sea during lockdown, I decided to have a look through some of my old travel photos from trips around the coast.

sketches-for-fishing-boat

I did a few thumbnail sketches looking at different images; I liked the diagonal composition in the first sketch. I used an Acrylic Marker by Daler Rowney (FW Marker) filled with Sepia High flow acrylic (Golden Paints).

I settled on an image looking down on some fishing boats, moored in the harbour of St Ives, Cornwall.

You can download a reference image below to follow along with this acrylic lesson, hope you enjoy it!

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New! Absolute Beginners Water-Mixable Oils Course

water-mixable-oil-course-beginners-600

New! Absolute Beginners Water-Mixable Oils Course

Have you ever fancied trying Traditional Oil paints but the thought of using strong-smelling solvents in a small room put you off?

Then you might find that Water-Mixable Oils are a perfect balance – the blending time of oils with the super easy clean up of water.

Water-mixable oils are real oils, they are water mixable, not water-based. They can be mixed and applied using the same techniques as traditional oils but whilst wet they can be removed from brushes and palettes with soap and water rather than using a solvent.

Don’t water and oil repel each other?

Well, yes they do. But water-mixable oils have an added ingredient that acts as an emulsifier, so the oil droplets are suspended within the water.

Water-mixable oils are relatively new to the market so I wanted to create this new Absolute Beginners Water-Mixable Oil Painting Course, to address some of the most commonly asked questions and help aspiring oil painters understand the theory and practice of painting in this medium.

Water-mixable oil paints can be mixed with water, low odour mediums or natural drying oils so if you paint in an enclosed space without good ventilation or you’ve developed a sensitivity to turpentine, working in a fume-free painting environment makes them really appealing.

They have a lovely buttery consistency, a long working time which enables you to make changes over a longer period of time, blending colours, adjusting shapes, or working wet-into-wet with thick impasto marks.

What does the Water-Mixable Oil Course Cover?

On this course, we’ll cover the best oil techniques to use, the different mediums and levels of sensitivity of some products that have been specially developed, so you can take a safe approach for you.

With over 5+ hours of tuition, you’ll slowly and methodically be introduced to the theory and practice of painting in water-mixable oils.

The course covers materials and setup, absolute beginner basics, moving on to more advanced classical oil painting methods from underpainting to impasto. I want you to fully understand fat over lean, know when to work alla prima or indirect – practice palette knife techniques and introduce classical oil mediums.

And also oils can get messy! So throughout this course, you’ll see me demonstrating clean working methods.

You’ll complete 3 paintings tutorials, with downloadable reference images for you to work along from and each look at different techniques and methods. I show every stage from drawing out, colour mixing, brush handling and edge control, always being aware of the handling of the paint, drying times and toxicity.

  • The first is an impressionistic alla prima cloud study where we compare and contrast acrylics and water-mixable oils.
  • The second is a master copy of a section of a Vermeer painting ‘The Little Street’ where we build it up in layers with an indirect approach so I can demonstrate the fat-over-lean principle.
  • Our final study is a classical still life painting bringing all the principles together, working through the underpainting, colour mixing to creating form and edge control.

Designed with the Acrylic Painter in Mind

If you’ve ever painted in acrylics and have struggled to achieve lovely smokey blends because the paints dry too quickly – then using water-mixable oils will make the blending process so much easier. And this course has also been designed with the acrylic painter in mind.

We look at how water-mixable oils compare to acrylics, the pros and cons of handling and opacity and how the speed of acrylics drying can be used to your advantage in underpainting, blocking in and canvas preparation. Utilising the best of both worlds.

Sensitivity to Solvents

Because there are varying degrees of sensitivity to consider from painters with multiple allergies and asthma – to painters who can tolerate low odour solvent or others that work in a well-ventilated studio space, I’ve designed this course bearing 3 different levels of sensitivity in mind.

  1. Hypersensitive with allergies – We create a completely solvent-free painting, just diluting with water and oil
  2. Less sensitive and can tolerate low odour solvents – We mix our own mediums using a low odour water-mixable thinner
  3.  Low sensitivity/paint in a well-ventilated room – Discover advanced pre-mixed mediums you can use to manipulate the drying time of the paints

Over 5+ hours of tuition

This is a simple, easy-to-follow downloadable video course with over 5 hours of tuition where you will discover the essentials of how to create an oil painting aimed at the absolute beginner.

It has been designed as a step-by-step rounded learning experience bringing together all my knowledge as a student, painter and teacher.

What’s in the Course?

  • 3 x water-mixable oil paintings demonstrations taking you step-by-step from drawing, mixing and matching colours through to the final brush strokes.
  • 9-downloadable video lessons, split into separate chapters that follow on sequentially.
  • Over 5 hours of detailed video instruction so that you can follow along at your own pace.
  • Downloadable reference jpeg images, line drawings, and a full materials list.
  • Lifetime access, downloadable on separate devices.

So why don’t you grab a brew, maybe a couple of biscuits and join me on this New Absolute Beginners Water-Mixable Oils Course and discover your inner oil painter!

New! Absolute Beginners Water-Mixable Oils Course

p.s Let me know if you have any more questions about the course and I’ll add them to the FAQs

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Studio Notes // 003: Art, Fear & Paint Stories

 

Studio Notes // 003: Art, Fear & Paint Stories

Every few weeks, I share my top art inspirations that I’ve read, experimented with or listened to. Here’s this weeks edition of things I’ve enjoyed, with the hope they might inspire your own work too…

I’ve enjoyed watching:

ken-robinson-talk

TED Talk: Do Schools Kill Creativity – Sir Ken Robinson

In August 2020 Sir Ken Robinson sadly died. His TED talk was one of the first I enjoyed when I stumbled across TED nearly 10 year ago. It was a funny, heartfelt and poignant message on the way that schools can kill creativity in children who don’t quite fit the standard academic mould.

‘For most of us the problem isn’t that we aim too high and fail – it’s just the opposite – we aim too low and succeed.’ – Sir Ken Robinson

I’ve enjoyed listening to:

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How to Dilute Acrylics vs Water-mixable Oils (Comparison Video)

How to Dilute Acrylics vs Water-mixable Oils (Comparison Video)

Morning class,

Over the past few months, I’ve been experimenting with various mediums, recording drying times and noting the handling of water-mixable oils – all in the process of creating a new course.

Amongst the copious footage, I wanted to share this introductory lesson where I compare the dilution of acrylics to water-mixable oils.

Simple but fundamental observations.

You may find there are times when acrylics dry off too quickly or are difficult to blend especially when you’re painting in thin layers. Using water-mixable oils can be fantastic because they give you that extra working time. Painting wet-into-wet is one of the significant advantages you’ll notice because you gain a lot more time for smoking together colours.

But how do they both compare when diluting with water?

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Simple Acrylic Still Life Tutorial – Painting Morning Sunshine

orange-segment-acrylic-tutorial-wkas

Morning class, this week I’ve been enjoying taking my breakfast outside onto the terrace which gets great mid-morning sunshine. Because the angle of the sun is lower at this time of the day, it can create a lovely backlight for translucent subjects.

I really liked how the sunlight coming from behind the orange segments gave them this wonderful backlit glow and thought it would work well as a little weekend acrylic study.

You can download a reference image below to follow along with the lesson, hope you enjoy it!

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Acrylic Still Life Painting Tutorial – Terracotta Plant Pots (Free 1 hr video tutorial)

terracotta-pots-acrylic-tutorial

“No one is an artist unless he carries his picture in his head before painting it, and is sure of his method and composition.”
Claude Monet

Morning class! This week we’re taking inspiration from around your home.

You might have always wanted to capture the corner of your sunlit living room or an interesting collection of books stacked up on your coffee table or a section of your garden or patio with all the vibrant greens and spring colours.

But when faced with a new painting subject, where do you begin?

How do you decide on the pigments to use or what’s important to focus on?

The tendency can be just to get started and work it out as you go along.

But without adopting a systematic approach to your painting, you can be faced with frustration with your colour mixing, wasted time on your drawing and an unsatisfying result; I want to show you an easier way.

In this acrylic still life tutorial, I go through the steps of how I think through my colour composition, from choosing the coloured ground to introducing the pigments and then slowly building up the piece before putting the brush to canvas.

So let’s grab a brew and any remaining biscuits you may have left, and let’s get painting!

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