Tuesday, August 31, 2010

More about layins 3

I got this question in the comments.
How can you tell if it's a GOOD lay-in or not? Is it the level of detail or accuracy?

The layin doesn't need much detail, so that isn't it. Accuracy would imply a level of transcription rather than design. Sometimes accuracy is important, but often the hard parts are those which need to be invented. Often there is a problem in the landscape. Some common problems are
  • If I painted this accurately it would be a 10 by 60, because the landscape is so spread out. I will need to compress it to get all of the things out there that I want onto my canvas.
  • This is a great view but I want to leave out the insecticide refinery, how am I going to do that and have the painting still look natural?
  • I don't want that stream to carry the viewer out of the painting on the left.
  • The mountains don't look big enough.
  • Its way too dark out there, I need to lighten this up a bit.
  • Nothing is leading the viewer into this picture.
  • Everything out there is the same size.
  • Its too stripey, every line runs horizontally across the canvas.
How you are going to deal with the problems in a painting is the most important thing to get out of your layin. Designing and arranging the painting have to be done at this point, later, is too late. After that, accuracy (where needed) is important, some passages have to be drawn just so. I don't mean in detail, but the big shapes need to be right, or at least convincing. It doesn't have to be right, it just has to LOOK right!

I got this question over on facebook:

Do you lay in with Liquin mixed with your burnt sienna? I lay in with just yellow ochre and get really annoyed when it mixes with other colors
in a way I did not intend!

Another reader answered beautifully, saying;

One of Stapleton's key points here, I think, is to keep it TRANSPARENT, almost watercolor-like, in the lay-in stage. One you've introduced an opaque color it becomes another beast entirely, and suddenly you're committed to pushin' all that opaque pigment around. If you like the tone of ochre, you might swap out your ochre for either Raw Sienna (PBr 7) or Mars Yellow (PY 42).

I might add only this, I don't think yellow is a very good color for layins. I know some fine painters who do, but I believe it is a problem maker and I think the writer above has encountered the problem that a yellow layin engenders . When we do a layin or underpainting, (which is probably as good a word for that which I am recommending) We are delineating the darks. Our greatest amount of pigment goes into our darkest notes. Yellow is a color more usually found in the lights, in fact it is the opposite of the color that most characterizes shadows outdoors, violet. If that yellow gets up into your shadow notes it will create problems, just as if you layed (laid? I don't know if I can use this spelling as a special painting word, or not. If you are an editor, or proofreader let me know the answer to that, remember I dropped out of high school ) in your lights with a dark purple, it will be hard to strike a clean note over it.

I do use some liquin in my layin. It might be better from an archival standpoint not to. But I do.


I will be holding a three day workshop at the Bass Harbor Campground in Bass Harbor, Maine. the 25-26-27th of September. That's Saturday-Monday. We will paint outside and I will teach beginners to experts the art of outdoor landscape painting.
Here is a link to where you can sign up
Reservations at the Bass Harbor campground can be made here.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Layins 2

Since I broached the subject last night, tonight I will write briefly about layins. The layin is crucially important and in my opinion far too many "learning" painters rush through it and into the next stages.


Almost every painting presents unexpected problems that need to be solved, there are few perfect locations in this world. If you are going to fight with a painting better sooner than later, and better transparent and monotone than in thick colored paint. A layin doesn't need to be highly finished although often mine are, but all of the gremlins that are going to pop out later need to be discovered and their solutions found. This is like drawing a plan before constructing a house. The last thing you want to do is short the layin for time.

I often spend half of my allotted time for a painting on the layin.

I usually layin paintings in transparent burnt sienna. I can paint in the shapes and if they are off I can remove them with a rag. Until I touch the white, I can push the design around as long as I like. The minute you touch the white, you are "locked down": and into the second and less adjustable phase of a painting.

If you have a monochrome layin right, you can hang your colors on it very quickly. If you have been impatient and rushed the layin, you will lower your batting average. You may chase gremlins about the canvas instead of driving to a finish. If your layin is well made, you can boldly lay your color over top off that and get a look of decision and freshens. A layin that is labored begets a painting that is easy.


I will be holding a three day workshop at the Bass Harbor Campground in Bass Harbor, Maine. the 25-26-27th of September. That's Saturday-Monday. We will paint outside and I will teach beginners to experts the art of outdoor landscape painting.
Here is a link to where you can sign up
Reservations at the Bass Harbor campground can be made here.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Two color layin

Here are two colors, I wonder if they look OK on your monitor? They are viridian and iron oxide red. I am starting a seascape and am using one of my strategies for getting a painting on the canvas. If I mix the two together they make a gray. I add the red to the viridian to darken it and that heats my shadows. I am using viridian because the water will have a lot of that color in it, but I often use burnt sienna and ultramarine.

Using warm and a cool complementary colors allows me to control my color temperature and reducing the game to two colors makes it almost like drawing in charcoal. I can concentrate on the drawing. Later on I can insert more colors, when I have the whole thing drawn out.

Please don't try to adjust your set, this one is blurry. Notice the blob on the upper left, it has mixtures that are warm and cool. If I add white to that I get a nice gray. I toned the canvas with the red oxide and Liquin. I let that dry over night. This is a studio painting. In the morning it was dry and I put a thin coat of liquin over that to "lock it down". I then drew the outlines of my subject with a rigger and the viridian and red mix.

Then I began working out the water and sky. They are both done with the two colors, except I insinuated a little bit of cadmium yellow into my most sunlit passages. Even the blue of the sky is viridian with a little red in it to gray it.

Here is a close up of the center wave very early in the process. If I use a lot of red into the shadows they get nice and warm and contrast with the cool lights form from the viridain alone. This was all painted with a #23 bristle about an inch and a half wide. Using the two color palette and the big brush, things can happen real fast. This is one days work. However if I run into problems I could get hung up and take forever to get it out the door.

A two color layin can be done with any two colors , complements work nicely, even yellow and violet. But the colors don't have to be compliments either. Using colors makes a much livelier layin and in this case a more finished one than just a single color like umber or black and white.

I will be holding a three day workshop at the Bass Harbor Campground in Bass Harbor, Maine. the 25-26-27th of September. That's Saturday-Monday. We will paint outside and I will teach beginners to experts the art of outdoor landscape painting.
Here is a link to where you can sign up
Reservations at the Bass Harbor campground can be made here.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Yet more Josh Reynolds and a tune

Johnny A, Bostons guitar hero. I heard him on the RADIO in the car today. He's getting long deserved recognition. My favorite albums this summer are "Get Inside" and One November Night by Johnny A.

More from Josh Reynolds tonight, followed by my translation. I am going to plunder Josh for another night or two and then move on. Oh, yeah, check out Mathew Innis writing for the last couple of days in his blog "Underpaintings" about my teacher R. H. Ives Gammell.

In a composition, when the objects are scattered and divided into many equal parts, the eye is perplexed and fatigued, from not knowing where to find the principal action, or which is the principal figure; for where all are making equal pretensions to notice, all are in equal danger of neglect.

If you, when designing a picture, scatter subjects all over the canvas and divide that canvas up into similar shapes, measurements and intervals, the viewers eye quickly tires. They don't know what the important thing is, and at what they should be looking. When everything on the canvas demands equal attention, everything gets overlooked.

It is in art as in morals; no character would inspire us with an enthusiastic admiration of his virtue, if that virtue consisted only in an absence of vice; something more is required; a man must do more than merely his duty to be a hero.

In art, just like in morals, nobody would impress us with their goodness if that goodness was merely that they behaved decently. More is required, a man must do more than what is expected as his duty to be a hero. ( In other words an artist must do something exemplary with that paint, just making an average and usual picture is not enough. The artist needs to do something special. Average doesn't cut it).

I have in a former discourse" endeavoured to impress you with a fixed opinion, that a comprehensive and critical knowledge of the works of nature is the only source of beauty and grandeur. But when we speak to painters, we must always consider this rule and all rules with a reference to the mechanical practice of their own particular Art. It is not properly in the learning, the taste, and the dignity of the ideas that genius appears as belonging to a painter. There is a genius particular and appropriated to his own trade (as I may call it), distinguished from all others. For that power, which enables the artist to conceive his subject with dignity, may be said to belong to general education; and is as much the genius of a poet, or the professor of any other liberal art, or even a good critic in any of those arts, as of a painter. Whatever sublime ideas may fill his mind, he is a painter only as he can put in practice what he knows, and communicate those ideas by visible representation.

I have in past lectures tried to communicate my view that a thorough and searching knowledge of nature is the only source of beauty and grandeur. But when we speak about painting we must be aware that this rule, and all rules are subject to the technical means needed to produce a painting. It is not particularly in the learning, taste or seriousness of ideas that excellence appears in a painter. Painting has it's own kind of excellence, different from the other human pursuits. The ability to conceive a subject, in a way that makes it important, is a part of a good general education, a poet, a professor of any other discipline in the arts or even a skilled critic could do that. No matter what glorious ideas he may have in his mind, he excels as a painter only when he can use his technical mastery to put those ideas on the canvas in a recognizable way.

That was almost a transliteration, but I think I got the general idea there.

I will be holding a three day workshop at the Bass Harbor Campground in Bass Harbor, Maine. the 25-26-27th of September. That's Saturday-Monday. We will paint outside and I will teach beginners to experts the art of outdoor landscape painting.
Here is a link to where you can sign up
Reservations at the Bass Harbor campground can be made here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

More translation from Joshua Reynolds

Here is a painting I just dropped off at Bayview gallery in Camden, Maine. I placed about a half a dozen there. If you are in that area and you want to see some of my paintings there is now a collection there.

Routinely readers whine about the difficulty of reading the white text on a black background. I like the way it looks, so I ain't changin it. However, if you don't like it, you can read the blog in plain text (black on white). My browser is Mozilla but your browser probably has a similar feature. Go to "view", click on "page style" and select "no style". That should change it over to black text on white.

Here is another passage from Joshua Reynolds, written just before the American Revolution and delivered as one of a series of speeches in London.

The first endeavours of a young Painter, as I have remarked in a former discourse, must be employed in the attainment of mechanical dexterity, and confined to the mere imitation of the object before him. Those who have advanced beyond the rudiments, may, perhaps, find advantage in reflecting on the advice which I have likewise given them, when I recommended the diligent study of the works of our great predecessors ; but I at the same time endeavoured to guard them against an implicit submission to the authority of any one master however excellent: or by a strict imitation of his manner, precluding themselves from the abundance and variety of Nature. I will now add, that Nature herself is not to be too closely copied. There are excellences in the Art of painting beyond what is commonly called the imitation of Nature; and these excellences I wish to point out. The Students who, having passed through the initiatory exercises, are more advanced in the Art, and who, sure of their hand, have leisure to exert their understanding, must now be told, that a mere copier of Nature can never produce any thing great; can never raise and enlarge the conceptions or warm the heart of the spectator.

This is an interesting passage. Many people today suppose that the artists of our history served as human camera surrogates and that the coming of photography made that art obsolete. But here we have the president of the Royal Academy in 1769 arguing against rote representation and for a far more artistic presentation. Below is my translation into Stapletonian quasi English.

The earliest efforts of a young painter must be to develop his mechanical dexterity and learn to represent nature faithfully. Those students who have understood the basics might find it worthwhile to take my advice and study the great historical painters. But I have cautioned them against being too influenced or too imitative of any one historical painter no matter how good they were, because that will lead them away from the study of the great variety and diversity found in nature. However nature is not to be slavishly copied either. There are great qualities in painting that are not achieved by copying nature. A student who has successfully learned the beginning lessons about painting and are more advanced in their art have the time and ability to learn the next principle.They need to be told that a mere copier of nature will never do anything great. They can never enlarge the perceptions of their viewers or effect those viewers emotionally.

Gee, that was hard! See you tomorrow. Below is another notice of my upcoming workshop in Acadia.

I will be holding a three day workshop at the Bass Harbor Campground in Bass Harbor, Maine. the 25-26-27th of September. That's Saturday-Monday. We will paint outside and I will teach beginners to experts the art of outdoor landscape painting. The class size is limited to ten.
There are restaurants and other amenities close by, including a motel if you don't want to rough it. There are tenting sites and simple cabins available and it will be very inexpensive. I know the cost of the workshop plus lodging as kept some of you from taking my workshops and I have been asked whether camping was available. So if you want to take a workshop as affordably as possible, this is your chance.
Part of the workshop experience is always the social scene, this should be particularly fun as we can build a campfire at night. Camping with the artists should be a lot of fun. Acadia should be starting to color up with autumn and the days should be warm and the nights chilly, but easy camping weather. The park will be fabulous that time of year. If we do get a rainy day I will teach seascape and coach the students on ways to improve their paintings in the studio.
The cost of the workshop is $300. I require a $150 dollar deposit which is non refundable, the balance to be paid at the event. Here is a link to where you can sign up
Reservations at the Bass Harbor campground can be made here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Useless tonight

Every night as I write the blog, I ask myself " have I given my readers something to learn?" Tonight I am lazy, You will learn nothing. But you might enjoy a laugh at my expense.
I went to my 40th high school reunion last month, and a woman I saw there e-mailed me some photos taken on a canoe trip 41 years ago, in 1969. This was when I was a junior in high school. Here are some pictures from when I was still young and pretty. Today I look like a statue of this young man, made out of beef jerky. I have the same haircut and glasses 41 years later, that's consistency. I no longer wear that silly bandanna though, who does? It was the 60's after all. I miss the 60's, if you can figure out a way to send me back, I am willing to go, immediately. I will leave a note for my wife and kids.
"Gone back to the 60's.......Stape"

Below is the photo I wanted to show you. I am drawing, or writing on this lovely young woman's abdomen in Mercurochrome. I present this as an early demonstration of my interest in painting. I have no idea what I was writing, or where that abdomen is now.

I will try to be informative again tomorrow. Please read the entry below this one advertising a new workshop in Acadia, on Mt. Desert in Maine.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Acadia workshop


I will be holding a three day workshop at the Bass Harbor campground in Bass Harbor, Maine. the 25-26-27th of September. That's Saturday-Monday. We will paint outside and I will teach beginners to experts the art of outdoor landscape painting. The class size is limited to ten.

The Bass Harbor campground is on the "quiet" side of the island and is a short walk from the Bass Harbor light. There are restaurants and other amenities close by, including a motel if you don't want to rough it. There are tenting sites and simple cabins available and it will be very inexpensive. I know the cost of the workshop plus lodging as kept some of you from taking my workshops and I have been asked whether camping was available. So if you want to take a workshop as affordably as possible, this is your chance.

Part of the workshop experience is always the social scene, this should be particularly fun as we can build a campfire at night. Camping with the artists should be a lot of fun

Acadia should be starting to color up with autumn and the days should be warm and the nights chilly, but easy camping weather. The park will be fabulous that time of year. If we do get a rainy day I will teach seascape and coach the students on ways to improve their paintings in the studio.

The cost of the workshop is $300. I require a $150 dollar deposit which is (non refundable), the balance to be paid at the event. Here is a link to where you can sign up ( This will become operational in a couple of hours from this posting).
Reservations at the Bass Harbor campground can be made here. Make sure you let them know you are coming for my workshop and they will give you the off season rate and a bundle of free firewood, and put you with the rest of us.

Ask Stape, retouching with Liquin?

Dear Stape

I was wondering if it is good to use Liquin instead of linseed oil for oiling out and if you see any problems with this? If you don't see any problems with this, do you think it's OK if I oil out a painting with Liquin where I've used only linseed oil as medium? I have read somewhere that Liquin yellows less than linseed plus I like how much faster it dries (than linseed), but I was worried about cracking and other bad effects it might have in the long run. I would like to give my paintings an even finish without the matte parts. I have tried brushing on retouching varnish, but it was very inconsistent in that some paintings became sticky.
I really love your blog as I find it extremely informative. Thank you so much for generously sharing your knowledge with us!
Sheena Leavin


Oiling out means to restore the gloss to the surface of a painting that has "sunk in". When a painting sinks in, areas have gone matte during drying. Some colors and dark passages are prone to this. I think the first choice would be to spray it with retouch varnish from a can or with a mouth atomizer. I think it better to spray a fine coat of retouch rather than to paint it on, as you will get a thinner coat.

Assuming the painting is very dry, I believe you could put a little Liquin on a paper towel and rub it onto the surface of the painting to restore its even gloss. I have no idea how much linseed oil you are using when you say it is your medium. I would suggest you go very easy on that if you intend to add more layers of paint. It is advisable to have fatter layers on top of leaner layers. But you knew that.

I have used Liquin to oil out a painting many times without a problem, but I have not done it over linseed oil, but I think you will be OK. Perhaps you might use Liquin as your medium, I like it very well. If you want more gloss, try Gamblins alkyd medium, Galkyd. That would eliminate the problem of using two different sorts of mediums. I think alkyd is less likely to crack than other mediums, it has a flexible rubberyness to it that I believe will reduce cracking. I don't feel straight linseed oil is a particularly good medium. If you want to use a natural, traditional medium , I would suggest 1 part stand oil, 1 part damar varnish and 4 to 7 parts turpentine, it must be turps, not mineral spirits though. Get the real stuff, the hardware store turps has dropped in quality and now smells like death. On the next painting I think you might want to rethink your medium-retouch varnish system and avoid making a habit of using the Liquin over linseed oil, it seems a little too complex to me, simple is usually better, and the fewer varieties of mediums in a painting the better.

I have never had a painting crack, and I have been very careless about the fat over lean dictum on some occasions. I am not dismissing that advice, just saying I have never had a problem, and I have paintings going back nearly forty years. I have seen paintings crack that I believe was the result of using the the old copal mediums ( now unavailable), and I have seen paintings crack that were painted extremely thickly. Those paintings were probably worked on in such a way as to add a new layer of paint day after day after day. They might have been as thick as a nickel in places. I am suspicious of "academic" methods that are super thin and made more from oil or medium in glazes, than from paint .Overly diluted paint, particularly if cut with thinner, is more likely to be a problem.

There are people who are really fixated on making paintings that they believe will last forever. Sometimes they make paintings that will last for centuries that never should have been made in the first place. As I am a working professional painter, I try to be sensible, but I am not grinding my own whiting or making rabbit skin glue on a hotplate. I try not to paint too thickly and I often paint on panels which don't loosen and tighten under the paint like a canvas. I think rigid supports are always better if you want to avoid cracking or other problems like being dented or torn , but they get too heavy when larger than about 20 by 24.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The discourses of Joshua Reynolds 3

Someone in the comments asked where I was today, where's Monday's post? Well... There actually was one, just like every single day for over 600 days (OK, I missed two when I was traveling and couldn't get on the internet) but it was marked as Sunday. I write the blog the night before and then after I publish it, I go back in and set the date for the next day. I forgot to do that for two days running. So it only looked like I missed a day.

I am planning a workshop, in about three weeks in Acadia, that's is on Mt. Desert, (Bar Harbor) in Maine. I have been working out the details with a campground here. I know that's short notice, but I had the opportunity and I liked the idea of doing it at a campground. Lodging will be super cheap. Bring a tent.There is a real motel close by if you don't feel like roughing it. I have spent almost the whole summer painting in Acadia and various places in Maine and I want to do that with a group, I do love the social aspect of leading a workshop. It will be the usual total immersion thing. I will give you more details tomorrow. e-mail me if you are interested, I will post a sign up form over the next few days.

Here again, is a passage from Reynolds, several of you have remarked on the difficulty of his language. Remember this was written in 1769, that's before the American revolution. Napoleon was born that year and Marie Antoinette was 13 years old. The first Spanish missions in California were being founded.

The detail of particulars which does not assist the expression of the main characteristic is worse than useless, it is mischievous, as it dissipates the attention and draws it from the principal point. It may be remarked that the impression which is left on our mind even of things which are familiar to us, is seldom more than their general effect, beyond which we do not look in recognising such objects

Here is my "translation".
Little details and descriptions of specific but minor features of a subject, are more than ineffective, they are detrimental.. They draw attention away from the subject. Even things and places that are very familiar to us and we are unaware of their details, recognizing them because of their"big look".

If we examine with a critical view the manner of those painters whom we consider as patterns, we shall find that their great fame does not from their works being more highly finished than those of other artists, or from a more minute attention to details, but from that enlarged comprehension which sees the whole object at once, and that energy of art which gives its characteristic effect by adequate expression.

If we look at the painters who we take as examples ton ourselves, we find that their fame is not because their work is tighter or more painstakingly rendered than than other painters. Instead their work is broader and the whole subject is seen as a whole and simply, and that "big look" presents the artists subject most effectively.Reynolds is again calling for large simple presentation of the subject , rather than a feverish description of its minute details.

So far is my disquisition from giving countenance to idleness, that is nothing in our art which enforces such continual exertion and circumspection, as an attention to the general effect of the whole. It requires much study and much practice; it requires the painter's entire mind: whereas the parts may be finishing by nice touches while his is engaged on other matters he may even hear a play or a novel without much disturbance.

I have no intention of speaking approvingly of laziness. There is nothing that is as much work as getting the "big look" of nature. That requires the painters entire mind to do. Little details and finishing can be done even while distracted, such as when listening to a play or a novel. In other words Reynolds describes painting details as busywork and not requiring the full abilities and focus of the artist.

All of these passages have in common a call for largeness of vision, for seizing upon the appearance of nature in the broadest possible manner, rather than as an accumulation of carefully rendered yet meaningless detail. While Reynolds text points to examples from the Italians, like Titian, this broad vision is also found in painters who lived long after him, like Monet, Hopper or Homer, whose work is broadly painted rather than bristling with nonessential detail.

Tomorrow I will move on to more Reynolds but I will focus on a different subject, I have devoted several nights now to his call for broad vision.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The discourses of Joshua Reynolds 2

Joshua Reynolds, self portrait from artrenewal.org.

Here I am again, excerpting selections from J.Reynolds discourses. I will publish the text, in italics and then "translate" in contemporary language.

If deceiving the eye were the only business of the Art there is no doubt indeed but the minute painter would be more apt to succeed but it is not the eye it is the mind which the painter of genius desires to address nor will he waste a moment upon those smaller objects which only serve to catch the sense to divide the attention and to counteract his great design of speaking to the heart

If looking just like nature was the only purpose of art, the most detailed painter would be most effective. But it is not the eye, but the mind, to which the great painter wants to speak. He won't waste his time upon small details that catch the eye and divide the attention of the viewer from his larger purpose of speaking to the heart.

They who have never observed the gradation by which art is acquired who see only what is the full result of long labour and application of an infinite number and infinite variety of acts are apt to conclude from their entire inability to do the same at once that it is not only inaccessible to themselves but can be done by those only who have some gift of the nature of inspiration bestowed upon them.

Those who have never seen the slow process by which skill in art is acquired, but instead only the results of that long effort, are apt to think they are unable to do the same thing because it is a gift that the artist has. They think that they could never do the same thing because they havn't received that special gift.

Reynolds is talking about those people who are unaware of the work and training that goes into being an artist, and how their opinion that it is a gift, belittles all the efforts that the artist has made to be able to practice his craft.

The great use of studying our predecessors is to open the mind to shorten our labour and to give us the result of the selection made by those great minds of what is grand or beautiful in Nature her rich stores are all spread out before us but it is an art and no easy art to know how or what to choose and how to attain and secure the object of our choice.

The purpose of studying the art of the past is to open us to possibilities, to make it easier to make and to show us what great painters thought was beautiful in nature. There is so much available in nature it is hard to know what to select to paint,or how best to represent it.

This genius consists I conceive in the power of expressing that which employs your pencil whatever it may be as a whole so that the general effect and power of the whole may take possession of the mind and for a while suspend the consideration of the subordinate and particular beauties or defects

This ability is to represent whatever you wish in its entirety. That way the whole image will capture the viewers attention, instead of dwelling on little details or faults or interesting non essential characteristics of that which is represented. The large important aspect of the subject is presented preventing the viewer from becoming mired in its nonessential qualities, good or bad.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The discourses of Joshua Reynolds

Image courtesy: artrenewal.org

Joshua Reynolds 1723-1792 was a fashionable English portrait painter and was one of the most successful portrait painters in English history. England produced a lot of great portrait painters and he is remembered as one of its finest.Reynolds was a founding member of the Royal Academy and was its first president. He painted about three thousand portraits. Reynolds was a friend and companion to Dr. Johnson, and Edward Burke so he kept company with some of the finest minds of his generation. Boswells life of Dr. Johnson is dedicated to Reynolds.

Between 1769 and 1790 Reynolds delivered a series of lectures on art that were later published as
"The Discourses of Joshua Reynolds". When I was a student of Ives Gammell, this book was required reading and Gammell would often quote it. Many of the obscure books from the artistic past have been made available in recent years and that is a good thing. However they have tended to be "how to" books rather than books written by artists on the larger subject of art and aesthetics. The few books of this sort referred to these days are 20th century books like Hawthorne on painting.

Joshua Reynolds book is a little difficult to read and I think a lot of it is of limited usefulness to a painter today. However there are passages which are valuable. I will mine a number of these from the text for you as I think they are great advice for painters. The entire book is available online as a PDF and you can find it here. I am going to present the words of Reynolds in italics, so you can know them from my own. Here is the first followed by my own annotation.

It has been my uniform endeavour since I first addressed you from this place to impress you strongly with one ruling idea I wished you to be persuaded that success in your art depends almost entirely on your own industry but the industry which I principally recommended is not the industry of the hands but of the mind

In other words, Your success in art is up to you and you must work to have it. By work Reynolds means an effort of the mind, a study by the intellect. He means we must work to perfect our understanding of art. Art is a mental skill, not a manual, or a copyists skill.

Those who have undertaken to write on our art and have represented it as a kind of inspiration as a gift bestowed upon peculiar favourites at their birth seem to insure a much more favourable disposition from their readers and have a much more captivating and liberal air than he who attempts to examine coldly whether there are any means by which this art may be acquired how the mind may be strengthened and expanded and what guides will show the way to eminence

Read that a couple more times until you have followed what he said, because it is deeply perceptive. I know for some of you the language is dated, so I will paraphrase it in modern English below. Perhaps this is unnecessary, but as I can't see your faces, nor can you raise your hand in this class I will to be sure all the readers have followed it. The elegance of Reynolds writing and its precision is irreducible, but here that is:

Writers on art who want the public to like them and appear enlightened and interesting have represented talent in art as an inborn gift for a special few. They have done this rather than analyze dispassionately whether the artist can increase his knowledge and what steps he might take to outstanding ability.
I will return with more of this tomorrow.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Miscellaneous additional pigments

I will write a few more quick notes on pigments and then, on to a new subject.

Umbers are iron oxides dug from the earth. Originally they came from the Umbria region of Italy, but are found all over the world. Raw umber is a slightly greenish, cool brown color. Burnt umber has been heated until it has a warm slightly reddish color. Both contain manganese, so they are poisonous. That's not something you would expect in an earth color. I don't use either of these although they are popular and inexpensive colors. I have so many colors on my palette that not everything makes the cut. I do sometimes play around with the raw umber, but I generally feel that it is too dirty. It also lures students into adding it to all of their shadows, like they do with black, which is the cause of a good deal of unhappiness and disappointing color. Umbers also seem to cause "drying in" where parts of a painting will go matte and distract from the otherwise glossy surface. I recommend that unless you are a very experienced painter, umbers shouldn't be on your palette, at least not outside. It is better to mix your browns, as you will get more life and variation in your notes.

Indian yellow, is a synthetic color, usually diarylide . It has a golden yellow color and is transparent. According to its manufacturers it is permanent. Diarylide is also used to make Permanent yellow. I don't use this color.

Dioxazine violet is a very powerful semitransparent purple color. I find it too powerful, it is like a purple pthalocyanine. It will stain the hair on your brush and I find it difficult to keep in check. I like a cobalt violet, but of course that is expensive. I think for most of you, mixing your violets from ultramarine and Alizirin crimson permanent is the best way to go. Frequently manufacturers mix Dioxazine with other less assertive pigments and give it a fanciful name, like "organ meats hue"or "wilted spurge". If you experiment with those you may find that one suits your purposes. If you are married to a thoracic surgeon, buy Old Holland cobalt violet in the big tube.

Paynes gray, blue black, and Indigo are all blacks to which some blue pigment has been added. They are as easily mixed as bought. However they are sometimes fun to use in an earth color palette. Indigo is now a synthetic color, that was once made from a plant grown as a dyestuff. It is the color of new blue jeans and was used extensively by Edward Seago, hence my interest in that color.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Cadmium red and other red pigments

As I have said before, I learned to paint with real vermilion. That is pure mercuric sulphide, and deadly. I don't think it is available today, but when I choose a warm red I look for one that has the same qualities as vermilion. Cadmium red is only close.

Cadmium red light is an opaque, permanent warm red and cadmium red medium and deep are progressively cooler. Cadmium red deep is a cherry color, cadmium red light is a fire color. However I find that cadmium red is not as good a mixer as the vermilion was, it tends to give somewhat muddy mixes with many colors excepting cadmium yellow. I use cadmium red mostly to influence, or "step on" other mixtures. I have referred to doing this in the blog before, as smuggling red. A color that is good for stepping on other colors doesn't need pigmenting strength, but mixability so that it adds it's influence to the mix without blowing it out.

Cadmium reds are a standard on the artists palette, but they are expensive and they are a toxic heavy metal. I seldom use it these days as there are other reds out there which seem to be good substitutes. Most of the makers have a red with their own nameplate on it, such as Rembrandt red, or Sennelier red and I like those very well and they are often close to my vermilion standard.

Napthol red is a deep, intense, permanent, semi-transparent red that is somewhat roseate in hue. It has been in use for almost a hundred years and is a common replacement for cadmium red. It is less expensive than cadmium red and I think it gives cleaner mixtures. Nearly every maker sells a napthol red. Again, often these are labeled with the makers name. Sometimes the tube will say permanent red.

Azo is a weaker red and seems to have no advantages over the quinacridones and seem mostly to show up in the less expensive hues or student colors.

P.S. Several people have let me know where real vermilion can be obtained. Even though you can get it, you should not be using vermilion. It is highly toxic and can be absorbed through the skin. I own several old tubes that I keep just to remember what olor it really is. I am have often used lead white and I am willing to deal with that level of toxicity, but vermilion is too poisonous for anyone to use, in my opinion.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cobalt and some other blues

Cobalt is the other blue on my palette. It is an expensive color, but is worth it's price for its cool, clear, sky blue color. Cobalt blue is a heavy metal color and is toxic, so reasonable cleanliness is important. Available since the early 1800's cobalt blue has long been a staple on the artists palette. The blue in Maxfield Parish's work is cobalt blue. Ultramarine is my warmer blue and cobalt my cooler blue. Sometimes, as I said before, I use really high key mixtures of white and viridian to make a blue that looks like cerulean.

Prussian blue is a very dark almost black, blue color. Prussian blue is a color that was supposedly impermanent, however the manufacturers mark it as permanent. I use it sometimes because it has a greenish cast that I like because it looks old timey. Prussian blue has been replaced today (except with me) by pthalocyanine which I find difficult to control.

Cerulean blue (cobalt stanate) is a light, delicate, opaque, slightly greenish blue. It has become very expensive in recent years and many makers only provide a hue which is, as usual, totally unsatisfactory. This is a great color in skies.

Manganese blue, was a permanent green-blue that was available when I was a student but was found to cause nervous system diseases. Now unavailable, I have heard its loss lamented many times by older artists.

Pthalocyanine blue, is a permanent, extremely intense, slightly greenish blue. It will tint to green or violet and is used in printing and industry besides by artists. I don't often use it as I find its pigmenting strength a drawback, being so much more powerful than everything else on my palette. However it makes great greens. If I had no viridian I would choose pthalo to build greens.

Most of the blues with names like azure blue or other evocative names are mixtures of pthalo and white. If you don't know what a blue that you see on a color makers list is, chances are reading the label will reveal it as a pthalo mixture. It is an inexpensive pigment and you could paint your whole house with about a quart if it was thinned properly.
Pthalo is used to make cerulean hue, viridian hue, cobalt blue hue, ocean blue, anteater blue, and just about every other "mystery blue". It is best to buy only named, single pigment colors, like cadmium red or ultramarine blue, rather than, hyacinth cerise deep or moonlight blue. The colormakers market dozens of these romantically named mixtures, mostly for the hobby market and students. If you like those colors you can mix them yourself on your palette and get more variation within that color yourself.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ultramarine blue

I worked about a 14 hour day today and I can barely focus my eyes. I guess I am burning the candle at both ends. I discovered tonight that I wrote a whole post on alizarin and spelled it with an i instead of an a throughout. I re-edited that. I work to eliminate typos, bu they just happen. Spell check doesn't know a lot of the art words. I guess it is inescapable that the blog is a little home-made. No editor and written in failing condition. Well lets see if I can spit out another.

Ultramarine is the color I use most after white, I keep trying to change that and I do cut down for a while, but it is still the case. Ultramarine is a modern synthetic substitute for the lapis lazuli blue that was used until the b1820's when it was superseded by the synthetic. Lapis was an important color in the days of illuminated manuscripts as it looked good with gold. It was however tremendously expensive. Many painters did without blue and "spoofed it with ivory black, until the synthetic became available.

Ultramarine is a light fast, clear and strong blue, that sometimes has a slight reddish cast. Poorer grades are either stringy or waxy, so it important to buy a good grade of this color. Again as I said last night, all of the major professional brands are fine.

Ultramarine blue is useful in painting shadows, skies and mixed with cool reds makes a fine violet. It pairs well with burnt sienna, it's near compliment and that is excellent for lay-ins as they can be varied in color temperature. More tomorrow when I am rested.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Tonight I am going to write about alizarin, well sort of. I don't use alizarin anymore and neither should you. I will come back to that.

Alizarin is one of several pigments that were derived since antiquity from the madder root. Madder was the source of the red that colored the coats of the British "new model army" that is, the famous redcoats. The ancient Egyptians used madder dyes.

In the 1860's German chemists developed a way to synthesize the red pigment in the lab. For over a hundred years alizarin served as the artists standard cool red pigment. However it was always problematic. Alizarin had permanency problems and had a bloody, blacky undertone. It was a more powerful pigment than the Rose Madder that was its natural counterpart. Rose madder, rare and expensive today was a common enough pigment fifty years ago ago. Rose madder was roseate in hue and had a lovely warm undertone that the alizarin didn't.

In 1958 Dupont developed quinacridone. It was a permanent, weather fast color that was used as an industrial coating and on cars. It was first used, to my knowledge, by artists, as permanent rose. Perhaps fifteen years ago artists began to convert to permanent alizarin, that is quinacridone. It is a great improvement, it has some of the roseate color of rose madder and the great pigmenting strength of alizarin. It comes in a range of colors through red to red-violet to violet.

So if you are still using the real alizarin (it will just say alizarin on the tube) you should switch to the permanent alizarin. It does cost as little more , but it isn't a color you will go through quickly. In return for that small investment you will get far better handling, clearer and more rose like color and permanence.

You might want to try permanent alizarin and permanent rose or quinacridone red (which is what I use) and decide for yourself which best suits you. As long as you are buying from a quality manufacturer and not buying a student grade it shouldn't matter too much which brand you buy.

Monday, August 16, 2010

About green pigments

I have two greens on my palette, they are viridian and chromium oxide. I will discuss one or two more besides.

Viridian hydrated chromium oxide is a cool, permanent green first introduced in France in 1859. It is non poisonous, that is important because it replaced an earlier color called emerald green.
Emerald green was copper aceto-arsenate and was so marvelously poisonous that under the name Paris green it was used to poison rats in the Paris sewers, hence the name. It was used as an insecticide until the invention of the far less toxic DDT. Many artist were poisoned by emerald green and has been long since removed from artists palettes.

Viridian is a deep green that is transparent without any olive or redness to it, so it looks very "clean". In recent years it has become expensive and the quality seems to have dropped. Viridian has a tendency to become gritty on the palette before it is used up, so learn how much you are likely to use in a day and put out only that much.

Virifdian is great for painting foliage and for seascape. It also makes a cerulean-like color when mixed with a great deal of white. That is handy in skies. Mixed with cadmium yellow it makes the color of grass in sunlight nicely, but one must be careful lest every color in a painting is made of viridian. Because of its cost, many manufacturers now make viridian hues which are pthalocyanine and handle nothing like the real thing. They are to be avoided. If you can't afford real, mix your greens from your blues and include a pthalocyanine blue if you want that level of pigmenting strength. I have tried to do this substitution for years and always end up returning to viridian. I think it is a very valuable color on the landscapists palette. I buy mine from RGH, and if I buy it by the quart it is affordable. A quart will easily last me a year.

My other green is chromium oxide. That is an opaque and warm color with high covering power. It is dull like an earth color and is very useful in painting greens in a landscape that are not too assertive. I use as much as I can in the summer, if it is less true than the intense greens of high summer it is also less assertive. I believe that Willard Metcalf relied heavily on chromium oxide green. It is a moderately priced color and is premanent.

Pthalo green is an intense green that I think can be easily mixed from pthalocyanine blue itself. It is so powerful that it is difficult to control and can overwhelm the inexperienced artist.


I advise against the use of pthalocynanine for the inexperienced painter. However many fine landscape painters have relied on it. In New England Emile Gruppe is the prime example as he was an exponent of the color.

Sap green was a lovely organic looking green that I used a lot in the 70's it was made from buckthorn berries, had a "whiskey colored undertone and was impermanent. Today sap green is not a pigment but is mixed from pthalocyanine and whatever else to make a color that resembles the old pigment not at all. I feel the same way about this as I do about any other pthalo based color, just buy the blue and mix your own notes.When you see a tube labeled permanent green it too will be pthalocyanine, but could be any shade of green.

Terra verte is as its name would indicate, an earth color. It is rarely used today and is more likely to be found on a portrait painters palette.

Olive green is a mixture, again often containing pthalocyanine, that has a brown tone usually obtained by the addition of a red earth color.

Soylant green is people.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The earth reds

I think this makes the blog look more scientific, don't you? In academia they have a phrase "physics envy". That afflicts the social sciences who are often trying to appear more like the "hard" sciences that get respect for their all their precision and measurable results. I may have a little physics envy here too.

My earth red is usually just burnt sienna, but there is a whole family of them and I will discuss a few. Earth reds are iron oxides, like the ochers we discussed last night, really they are just a red version of the same earths. There are also iron oxide colors made in the lab. My burnt sienna is made from synthetic iron oxides, many of the commercially available paints are. I am perfectly happy with that. Incidentally Winsor and Newton makes a particularly nice burnt sienna

I use Burnt sienna because it has a nice warm glowing red that leans towards golden and is moderately transparent. It is permanent, dries rather quickly and handles well. I often lay in whole paintings in Burnt sienna because it is a good color to have underneath a painting. When I draw or mass a painting onto the canvas, what I am indicating is mostly the darks. I want to use a color that I wouldn't mind percolating up into my darks occasionally. Burnt Sienna is as basic a color as is possible and has been a standard on artists palettes for centuries. There are a lot of allied colors, here are a few.

Transparent oxide red; this color seems to have become very popular lately because of Richard Schmidts book. I believe he recommends and uses the Rembrandt version. Every companies version is different, wildly different, in this color. It is a little redder than burnt sienna, but quite close to it, and is of course very transparent. That's a nice quality and I have experimented with a few tubes of it. However it only comes in small tubes and at ten bucks a tube (high for an earth color) I am happy enough with my big tubes of sienna. I only use the big tubes. I go through a lot of paint.

Mars red; a deeply colored red, like the old oxblood color that penny loafers come in. I pull this out on occasion but I can mix it myself and would have to add it while retaining the sienna.This is a synthetic iron oxide.

Indian red; is another iron oxide red it is a deep brick red with a slightly bluish tone. It is very opaque and covers extremely well.It is permanent and handles well, but I find it heavy. I have to be careful when I use it because it is surprisingly strong for an earth color. I have worked with it a bit when studying Edward Seago as it was a constant on his palette. Again, when I use it, I add it to the "visitors' section of my palette as it is too different from burnt sienna to be its replacement.

Venetian red is transparent and has a pinky tone it is also rather powerful for an earth color. This is sometimes called light red.

Terra Rosa; is like its name implies somewhat rose colored, it has a warm yellowy undertone. Very similar to venetian red.

These similar colors range from warm and yellowy, to deep and cool. They range from transparent to opaque. You might want two on your palette, at either ends of their range. They are dependable and relatively inexpensive, versatile pigments.

I am beginning to work out the arrangements for a California workshop. I am thinking the Napa valley in mid-October. But the details are not yet finalized, I will let you know more soon.If that works for you let me know, if it doesn't, let me know what does and I will see what I can do.I am also planning to be in Southern California too.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


I wanted to begin the post tonight by drawing your attention to an excellent series of posts being written over on the Underpaintings blog by Mathew Innis. He has been writing about Ebauche which is the formal system of underpainting popular with 19th century artists. It is illustrated with examples from that era as well as our own. The link I have provided is to the first in the series. The internet is so cool. Information like this was nearly unavailable in my student days. I am not someone who works in this manner, but it is good to know about, maybe you might. It is a very logical way to build a picture in the studio, and of particular use to figure painters.

Ocher is my second yellow, I actually use gold ocher from RGH. It is like yellow ocher but has golden yellow color as it's name implies. It is made with a synthetic iron oxide. The real ochers are often muddy looing and I like the clear strong synthetic versions better.That is the only ocher on my palette,(well technically you could call burnt sienna an ocher) but here are many varieties of ochers. This is mankind's oldest pigment, and the earliest paintings were executed in ochers on the walls of caves. Naturally occurring clay bearing oxides of iron is the source for this pigment and it can vary widely in color from, a pale yellow through red to brown. There are even some blueish ochers.

Yellow ocher ( that's probably what you use, so I will use that example) is a dependable, permanent and semi-transparent pigment. It is not "clean" like a cadmium but has a wonderful brownish tone and covers very well. When I look at old paintings it is obvious that ochers were used extensively. I have worked using only yellow ocher, ivory black and sienna. It is a basic workhorse color that I use routinely. Many painters today have only three colors and don't use earth colors, but I like the look they give in a painting and would part with them only reluctantly. If I could have only one yellow though, it would be Cadmium yellow.

Iron oxide yellow can be made in a more highly colored version in the lab. This is mars yellow. I believe that many yellow ochers are enhanced with Mars yellow today. That doesn't seem to me to be a drawback. I have experimented some with mars colors and while they are not currently on my palette, I like them, they are sort of an ocher on steroids. They too are permanent and reliable colors. Yellow ocher and indeed all ochers vary widely from one manufacturer to another, and some are very strong and others quite gray and seem dirty next to the more powerful gold ocher I use.

Because it is an inexpensive pigment and absolutely reliable if you must paint on a tight budget, ocher is a color you should include on your palette. It is also handy if you are trying to obtain an old master look. It is useful in skies as its slightly reddish color provides warmth. Ocher is also good for painting rocks and foliage in sunlight. It mixes with various blues, or viridian to form less assertive greens than the cadmiums.

Red ocher or mars red are nice colors too, I sometimes add mars red to my palette, it is a little like Indian red but cleaner. Those red Venetian buildings in Sargents paintings look like mars red to me. I have never used a blue ocher, or even seen one. I suspect it might be useful to a portrait painter, but I can't imagine it having any usefulness to me outside.

Last night I recommended RGH Naples yellow, and I realized today that I haven't bought it in a while and I should make sure it is still authentic, although they are good about that kind of thing, which is one of the reasons I like their paint. I will get back to you on that, but if you want to order it, call them and ask.

Friday, August 13, 2010

I am curious, yellow

image from webexibits.org

The post on black was the first of several I want to do on the nature of the various pigments. Tonight I want to talk about yellows.

The yellow that you will most likely have on your palette is cadmium yellow, which is a metal, cadmium sulphide, it becomes deeper with the addition of selenium. Cadmium is a heavy metal and toxic. The usual advice follows, don't smoke or eat with cadmium on your hands and don't hold brushes in your mouth. Many of our paints are toxic so there is nothing unusual about this. A number of years ago Daniel Moynihan, senator from New York tried to get a bill passed that would have made cadmium pigments illegal. It didn't fly, thankfully.

Most of the use of cadmium is in cadmium-nickel batteries. It was commonly used to color plastics and has been a problem in children's' toys imported from our comrades the Chi-coms. There is no good substitute for this permanent and stable pigment. Before cadmium was available artists used chrome yellow. That has been completely replaced by cadmium.

Cadmium yellow comes in different hues. Even though they bear the same names, the actual hues vary from one brand to another. The usual variations are cadmium yellow pale, light, cadmium yellow lemon, cadmium yellow, medium and deep. They grow warmer and redder as they go from light to deep. I usually have only cadmium yellow on my palette. If I add another it is cadmium yellow medium.

Cadmium yellow is what I think of as a pure yellow, cadmium medium seems a little orange to me and cadmium light or pale is too light to get the punch I want. A lot of landscapists like cadmium yellow lemon, but I feel that if I want a cadmium yellow that is cool, I can add my own blue. Cadmium yellow is about in that sweet spot that is not too warm and not too cool. I modify it to go either direction with other colors from my palette.There are many painters out there who use limited palettes that have three colors, cadmium yellow is almost invariably one of them.

Cadmium yellow is a relatively expensive color but I don't churn through it like I do ultramarine. I buy about a quart a year from RGH (link in my sidebar). Quality is important in cadmiums. The student grades really fall down here, avoid them, you need to buy a professional grade. Most of the available brands that are professional quality make a decent cadmium yellow. Never buy cadmium yellow hue. When it says hue on the tube that means it is a mixture of who knows what that LOOKS like cadmium yellow but is not. It will not mix right and will lack pigmenting strength. It will however, be cheap.

Another yellow that I occasionally use is Naples. Naples yellow is now difficult to find. It is made from lead and the tube should feel very heavy. Every company still seems to market a Naples yellow but most are not real. They are about the right color but they don't act the same way when you use them. Naples is a soft and subtle color that is great in skies. It is not a very powerful pigment but is great for modifying other notes. The boutique manufacturers still make it though, so does RGH. It is essential to get the real thing though, the charm of Naples is in its peculiar subtlety and the synthetic versions don't have that. It generally comes graded light, medium and deep. The deep approaches raw sienna in color, the light is very pale and the medium is about right.

Azo yellow is a common and less expensive substitute for cadmium, other than its price, which is lower than cadmium it has nothing to recommend it. It seems to me inferior to cadmium in every way. It is less toxic though. Many companies market a yellow with their brand name on it that is generally an azo mixture of some sort.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

My Eurocentric viewpoint, defended


I received this e-mail and I asked permission from the writer to respond on the blog.

Mr.Kearns your talk about heritage sounds so sentimental and one-sided that it compels me to write to you and ask what is so wonderful about my heritage? Assuming that one's culture is superior to others and then invading them and exploiting them is part of my eurocentric,racist heritage too .Its not only Nimphs and Fauns in the forest you know. Or pretending that other cultures,even those older than my own, are inferior,or,primitive,and then dismissing them,seems to be a factor that is creeping back into my culture. Just read any of the diatribes against modern art or primitivism in the Art Renewal website. There is more to art than knowing how to draw like a french academician or understanding perspective so that you can make paintings that look like touched-up photographs.There is more to art than being able to decipher a 19th century academic painting or not.In the end what really matters is whether the painting works or not,without the help of fables or the opinions of art critics or writers.The painting has to have that indefinable something...you know what I mean. One should understand one's culture in a well rounded sort of way and never loose track of the fact that one's culture is not the best,or the only one worth knowing about.And,if one wants to be a painter one should learn all about it's technics and the properties of the materials involved and never assume that the standard for good and valid painting is french academic art. To that I say Da Da! Keep up the good work and take care!

Signed; Socrates
Dear Socrates

I am as you say, sentimental, enormously so in fact. So there I am, guilty as charged. I suppose I am Eurocentric too. I am from a European background, although my family is long enough in the states that I know little about the relatives who stepped off the boat into America.

I also take no responsibility for the writings on art renewal.com. except for what I wrote there. That was an article praising Bouguereau, for which I am responsible. They kindly have allowed me the use of images from their large online museum which has been an enormous aid to me in the construction of this blog. Their online musuem is a great service to those who want to look at historical Western painting before the 20th century. If you disagree with the viewpoint they have, and I do sometimes, their museum is still a wonderful contribution to the painting fraternity.

I don't care to argue whether my European heritage is racist or not, I stay pretty much out of politics in my blog and that qualifies, the web is full of politics of every stripe and I will leave that discussion to others. My purpose is limited to the discussion of painting, and traditional painting at that. To that end I present what I think is excellent within my cultural heritage. That is what I think is useful to the people who read it. I have on at least one occasion touched on race, that was when I was writing about Samuel Morse, I did that to present a picture of the man as an artist and for the historical edification of my readers, not as social commentary. People of many different political leanings, ethnicitys and nations read this blog. Sometimes I wonder about those guys in Indonesia, it must seem foreign to them, but if I were not useful to them they would not read what I write.

However I DO have a viewpoint, and it is my own and drawn from my experience and who I am. I am interested in carrying on a tradition that is a part of my culture. Every culture has people who do this, there are martial arts practitioners in Japan who unapologetically practice without feeling the need to include boxing in their art. Mongolian throat singers are justly reluctant to cover Sinatra. I am working within a tradition that is my own and familiar to me, for me to pose as expert on the art of another culture would be ludicrous, as I am not.

My point of view is from a tradition of painting that has existed in New England for generations. I contentedly work within that tradition. It is what interests me. Others have different interests and follow those. My teachers teacher was a student of Leon Gerome (William Paxton) so I have been handed down influence from the French Academic painters I suppose. But I don't use their methodology, there are painters today who do, and wonderfully, I should write about them. They are usually called Classical Realists and I have never felt that I was that. My training was of that sort under Ives Gammell but I diverged from that years ago. I do champion the work of the French Academics on occasion because I believe they were the among the very finest practitioners of the craft of painting. But I revere Rembrandt and Rubens far more.

I am continuing an artistic tradition that was handed down to me. Some things are a part of that and some are not. I see no great usefulness in my studying African masks or Arabic calligraphy (although I think it beautiful) to improve my painting. If I were a blues player I would not spend a lot of time copping polka riffs. I do look outside my own culture somewhat, I study Japanese prints, however Eurocentric artists have done that for centuries so even that is not a departure from my cultural tradition. I also look occasionally at the art of the ancient Greeks, particularly their ceramics and sculpture again that is usual within my own artistic tradition rather than a divergence from it.

If I did not feel that my own artistic tradition were the best, I would be compelled to leave it and adopt another, and when I run into something in another tradition that is useful to achieving my own goals I would be mistaken not to adopt it. But I do like western civ best. I think that when the subject is painting, no other cultures work approaches it. It is something my culture has done particularly well. While you may disagree, it is neither insane or illegal to hold that viewpoint.

There are many other viewpoints and they all have their defenders as well, a little research on the net will find them. I remember back when there were only three TV channels, and you had your choice of those. Then with the coming of cable we began to talk of narrowcasting, that is programming that was tailored to smaller chunks of the audience. Like the Fishing channel and all of those dreary sports shows. The internet has taken this a step further and I am an example of that, there is no way the Stapleton channel would ever work, there would be not enough interest, but on the internet the small number of people who are interested in my particular type of thinking can find me and the negligible cost of production and generally low expectation of literary excellence allow a place for me.

Traditions require practitioners to exist, in order for a tradition to continue it is necessary that some number of them adhere to it. I think it useful that some people are doing that. Many more won't, but it is a big jostling world with lots of people doing lots of different things. Your argument would call for a sort of universalist conformity, that we all should feel it is RIGHT to practice a kind of "world art". Many people will, but there is room for those who don't. In fact I get called upon sometimes to be more "modern" too. But as I am not interested particularly in that art, why should I adopt it? Isn't the idea that I should do my own thing, be independent? Why would I let the calls from others direct me to do that in which I have little interest? I have worked very long and hard to be able to survive as a painter, in return for that, I extract the privilege of doing the kind of art I want. A quick tour through the museums and art schools of the land would reveal that the modern or multicultural schools of thought are ascendant, dwarfing the tiny number who do what I do. They will survive without me. It is not essential that all artists should work from the same viewpoint.

Many people reading this blog (I will probably hit 18,000 viewings this month) no doubt disagree with my point of view but they read it because they learn about painting, and get some help in improving their own.What they disagree with, they will disregard. Besides they get it for free so they almost never complain. I am used, therefore I am useful.