Thursday, August 23, 2012

Another little trick I know 5

Toward the end of a painting day it is often useful to know how long you will have to continue painting before the light fails. I love saying "when the light fails" it is so old timey and romantic sounding. Long ago I  used to tell One lovely young woman that I would meet her "when the light fails".

 Here is a way to tell how long you have before dark, this is an old woodsman's trick. Hold your hand out at arms  length. Then place your hand below the sun  with the bottom of your hand on the horizon, or that line of trees, or whatever the  sun intends to drop behind. You might need to use both hands to do this if the sun is still high. Count how many fingers there are between the sun and the horizon. You can figure on fifteen minutes for each finger. In the picture above I have 45 minutes before the sun drops behind that row of trees.This works no matter how large or how small your hands are, I suppose because the length of your arm varies somewhat in proportion to the size of your hand.

Here is a trick for keeping your white (or whatever color) fresher overnight.

Put a tuna fish can upside down over that pile of color and it will be less likely to dry out overnight. If  paint drying overnight is a big problem, you can always put your paint in the refrigerator. That won't hurt it at all. You might want to make a special box for it if you do this routinely. That will keep the paint and your cottage cheese separate. In the winter I often  throw the palette in the trunk of my car when I am done working for the day. Even if the night is very cold the colors will rapidly warm up again in the heat of my studio.

 I have the attention span of a goldfish. A goldfish has about a two second memory. All day they swim around their little bowl muttering "I think I've seen this before... I could swear I've seen this before,
I think I've seen this before". I have a case of ADD that would kill an ordinary man, I am a human whippet, I am so easily distracted. 

  So, I keep a kitchen timer beside my easel. When I am having a problem staying focused, I work timed hours. I set the timer and no matter what happens I work for an entire hour. If the phone rings I will ignore it. I don't do this all the time but when I am against a deadline or there are lots of distractions I set my timer. Evidently people with jobs have similar systems involving timeclocks and scowling supervisors. To be self employed you have to have the discipline to oversee yourself, no one else will.

Is this next item a painting trick? Maybe not. but it is a useful survival habit for gaunt bohemians and hipsters with uncertain incomes.


Every time I sell a painting I go to the grocery store, there I make a point of buying a selection of imperishable food items, along with my regular grocery purchases. I buy things like tuna fish, soups, spaghetti sauce, noodles. canned soup, you know, stuff that will patiently wait for a long time to be eaten. This has saved me from hunger many times. These days my income is always sufficient to feed me, but there have been times when it was not and I went hungry. I still practice this habit out of caution, in these uncertain and tenuous economic times you never know. I could live for a month or longer without buying groceries if I had to. If you belong to Costco  or Sams Club, that is a great place to shop for survival rations. I usually have a case of soap around and enough dish detergent and household cleaning products to carry me through an extended period of financial misfortune. I feel safer knowing that I have a well stocked larder, just in case.

I do this with art supplies too. I buy my paint by the quart or five big tubes at a time. I could paint for months without resupplying. Paint won't spoil and I feel comforted knowing that it is there.


I have a few spots left in the Minnesota workshop to be held in Stillwater, Sept. 15 through the 17th. 
I am excited to be teaching in Minnesota, where I grew up. I like the prairies and hills there. Minnesota has great oak trees that are fun to paint. It is often a low horizon sort of a place, reminiscent of my hero Seago or Dutch painting. Perhaps you would like to join the group? I can save you YEARS of screwing around. Workshops are a lot of fun and I enjoy teaching them. I am  pleased to announce two special guest stars for this event, Mary Pettis and Kami Polzin, both are well known Minnesota plein air painters and will  join us out on location.

 Each day after painting we go out to dinner and I draw on napkins and teach design skills from my laptop. So this is the most intense  program possible. It runs from breakfast until after a late dinner. You will be exhausted at the end of each day, I promise. I will work you like a borrowed mule!. I only have three days with you and I want to cram as much into that time as I possibly can. There is a lot of camaraderie and I am always sorry when work shops end. Below is the link  if you would like to sign up or learn a little more about the work shop.

The same is true of my New Hampshire workshop in the White Mountains. I am down to only a few spaces left so let me know if you would like to come.

This is a total immersion program and I run the class about 12 hours a  day. I do an evening lecture while we wait for dinner to be served.The fall color in the White Mountains is legendary and people come from all over the world to see it. In the 19th century all of the great Hudson River painters made a point of being there too, just a few miles up the road from the inn.Sign up here;


Durinda Cheek, Fine Artist said...

Thanks for the sun down trick. I have been out painting and lose the light- oops!
I just ordered Paint Savers- little plastic domes to cover your paints. Tuna can works just as well and it came with food! I do throw saran wrap over paints before putting in the fridge. Also as I tell my students- put out paint! Big blobs won't dry out as fast as small and don't try to save paints mixed with driers like Liquin. Sigh, so much to remember, I better set a time!

Anonymous said...

I'm enjoying all these tricks of the trade!

Do you have any suggestions for cleaning stainless steel brushwasher containers? Thanks!

DennyHollandStudio said...

Stape, great tips. I also practice the art of the focus hour when working on a painting in my studio, since I'm easily distracted. However, instead of using a kitchen timer, I'll listen to a double album of some sort. Sometimes, it will even be a bloated, excessive work by some prog rock band from the seventies!

Unknown said...

LOVE the sunsetting tip. Never heard that. Thank you.

Student Service said...

Your tips are so funny, and right on target! I need the timer to make me get up when I'm really in the zone. I had a friend once who observed that I felt rich as long as I had backup supplies of toilet paper and beer :)

Philip Koch said...

Love the fifteen minute per finger trick. Will have to check this out for myself of course, but it sounds like it would work. And even if it doesn't prove that accurate, it's such a cool idea I think I'll spread it around anyway. People will think "boy, that artist guy is really in touch with nature!"

Stapleton Kearns said...

It will help us both be cool..............Stape

Making A Mark said...

Hi Stape - Can I suggest you investigate the use of "Pages" in Blogger. You could usefully make a couple as a static reference point for:
* your tricks
* your workshops

If you look at my blog you can see I have a series of links to pages running across the top of the blog. No need to go made like me - but it's a good place to make it easy for people to find past blog posts.

Making A Mark said...
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