Archive for 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Here we are at the end of another year.  This year has gone very quickly!Snowy-Jura-Mountains-France-photo-by-Nat-Wildish-430

It has been a year filled with many challenges and also beautiful things. White-Peaks-Jura-Mtns-France-photo-by-Nat-Wildish-430

As nature sheds its leaves, resting and in preparation for a new beginning next year,Snow-Jura-Mtn-Colors-France-photo-by-Nat-Wildish-430

I hope that this coming year will be even better, and that we can each, in our own way, make the world a better place.Lampost-View-Snowy-Jura-Mtns-photo-by-Nat-Wildish-430

Thanking all of you who take the time to read this blog and wishing you a very good holiday season and new year.

Snowy Peaks Jura Mountains, France

Snowy Peaks Jura Mountains, France

best wishes,
Nat Wildish, aka DweezelJazz


How To Frame Egg Tempera Paintings On Paper Adhered To Glass

Friday, December 18th, 2009

I received an email from Juliet, an egg tempera painter, asking a really good question about framing and I thought I’d answer it here.  Here’s the question:

“I’ve been using egg tempera for a little while now (for religious icons) and I’m really hooked on the medium.  I’ve been casting around for a suitable support for more secular pieces which is less laborious than preparing gesso boards, and your way of adhering paper to glass is really interesting.  Do you find you have to frame your glass-mounted pieces afterwards or can they be hung as they are?”

The great thing about egg tempera paintings on paper adhered to glass, is that it allows for many options when it comes to framing. If you’d like to find out how the paper is adhered to glass, and why, the process is described in “How To Paint With Egg Tempera“.  I’ve framed egg tempera paintings successfully in the following ways:

  1. Hanging the glass just as it is with the painting on it (the glass used in this case is tempered glass, 4 mm thick).
  2. Framing the painting in a standard frame, in the same manner as an oil painting is framed.

If the glass is tempered the painting can be hung directly on the wall just as it is. The “Maldives Palm” egg tempera painting is hanging on our living room wall. The painting is hung with a fixture attached directly to the glass just like mirrors are often hung.  There’s card backing on the back of the glass.  You can see the result in the photo below.Maldives Palm Egg Tempera Painting Framed by Nat Wildish

A traditional frame could be added around the glass in whatever sizing appeals.  The flexibility of how these paintings can be framed leaves options open for a person to find whatever appeals to them. As you can see with the “Aguille du Midi” painting, it’s now possible to add a backing and/or a conventional frame around the painting.  Aguille du Midi Egg Tempera Painting by Nat Wildish

I originally used the same glass that is used conventionally in picture frames; this glass isn’t tempered and is thinner than the tempered glass. I used wheat paste to glue the 300 g/m2 watercolor paper to both sides of the glass in order to strengthen it. As the paintings become larger in size, care does need to be taken because the glass does flex when it’s in larger sizes. However, they are robust and don’t bend if they’re not set down on uneven surfaces.Portrait of a Horse Egg Tempera Painting by Nat Wildish
Portrait of a Horse” is one of the paintings done on normal glass and it has paper glued on both sides of the glass.  It has been propped against the wall on top of a cupboard with no ill effect. It could be framed in a traditional frame right over the edges of the painting with a solid backing to give it support, like the “Purple Flowers” painting shown here:Purple Flowers Egg Tempera Painting by Nat Wildish Framed

Another demonstration of the robustness of the paper on normal glass with paper adhered to both sides of the glass is the painting of the “Fisherman’s Bastion“, Budapest, which you can see in the photo is sitting on an easel without a solid support behind it.  This painting is 14″ x 18″ (36 x 46 cm), which is fairly large. It has been on display long-term like this and it works just fine.Fishermans Bastion Budapest Egg Tempera Painting by Nat Wildish

If you want to hang the glass just as it is, then it’s most definitely best to use tempered glass because this doesn’t flex even at larger sizes. I’ve put a lot of thought and experimentation into determining the best ways to frame the glass to ensure that the painting remains in perfect condition on a rigid surface.  If you have any questions or suggestions for other ways to frame the artwork, I’d love to hear from you.


What Does An Artist Need To Know In Today’s Technological World?

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

This seems to be the time when ebook readers and very small portable computers are starting to really catch on, not to mention all the ways it’s possible to read content on smart phones.

I recently read an article, The End of Book Publishing As We Know It, on Michael Hyatt’s blog.  In  the article there’s a video showing a slim, portable, color-format reading device Time Inc has developed for magazine content.  It allows for audio, video and normal text print content to be accessed very easily all in one place at the touch of a finger.

Time (no pun intended) will tell just how much these new devices and combinations of media will affect the conventional publishing industry, but it is already true that the publishing industry is experiencing tremendous changes.

There are many new opportunities available for the individual in this evolving technical environment.  Software applications at relatively low prices have made it possible for individuals to learn how to accomplish things that used to only be possible for experts with very costly equipment.  One such area is the ability to print a book using, for example, Adobe InDesign or even one of the applications made freely available by online book printers such as Blurb.

The tricky part that comes with having direct access to performing these highly specialised tasks is that in order to create quality products there’s a great deal for an individual to learn.  It’s crucial to assess which facets will be important to forwarding one’s own work.  There are a variety of reasons for limiting just how much you intend trying to learn to do:

  1. learning a little of everything results in doing most things in a mediocre manner because there just isn’t enough time to truly develop more than two or three things fully and deeply
  2. time spent on one thing means less time spent on another which could be more important in achieving your goal
  3. you might end up spending much more time than you intended doing something you really don’t enjoy very much

So it’s really important to pick and choose what to learn, finding the balance that allows you to move forward with your goals, but doesn’t drain too much from your primary ambition and passion.

My primary passion is stories.  I think I could do without many things, but not stories, and stories with pictures, well, I just think that’s the ultimate.  I love movies, but have no interest in being directly involved in the film industry.  So I’ve been concentrating on understanding what it is about the visual elements that go into art that make it successfully communicative, and what elements are important to a story to make it really interesting and exciting.

I’m still experimenting with just how my passion will express itself in my art.  To try to get closer to this, I’ve been delving more deeply into color theory, composition, technique, and all types of art from fine art to illustration, cartoons, animation — everything I can set eyes on.  I’ve experimented with digital painting, and more watercolor and egg tempera painting techniques.

I have also been studying writing, visual storytelling and story-boarding, and am writing a couple of fiction stories to see where they go. For the more practical side of how to communicate the art, and possibly stories, during the last year I have completed courses in all of the Adobe Creative Suite applications.  My year’s subscription with Total Training will end on January 1st and so this spurred me to complete the InDesign and Illustrator courses during these last few weeks.  I have also studied web design, print design, composition, layout, and a little about typography.

So that’s it for the heavy-duty studying for me, thank goodness!  Now I need to develop my artwork so that it expresses my passion – and I’m not quite sure what that is yet in terms of style or subject.  I think it might be bound up in expectation, and if I can let that loose, my style should just be there. When I write I have no expectation and my writing style seems to be there just simple and unsophisticated, for better or worse.  I haven’t yet reached that with the art.

So here’s to the New Year, bringing new discoveries and challenges.  If you have any comments on what you think it’s important to learn in today’s environment, and/or if you have any advice on reaching your own style, I’d love to hear them.


Sketches, Digital Painting and Experimentation As Part of the Work Flow

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

Last week I sketched and inked a drawing of the Tower of London, scanned it into the computer and then painted it using Corel Painter Essentials and Adobe Photoshop.

Tower of London Brush Pen Ink Sketch by Nat Wildish

This is the first time I’ve used Painter.  The program came as bundled software with the wacom graphic tablet I got long ago and I finally slipped the disk into the computer and installed it.

Painter provides brushes that make it possible to quickly build texture into a painting, which otherwise takes me more effort to create in Photoshop.  Painter also has a really nice color wheel that I find very intuitive and easy to use (I’m using version 3, the color wheel may have changed in version 4, it is said to have been improved).

After applying what might be called an ‘underpainting’ in Painter, I opened the file in Photoshop and continued painting, smoothing things, adding more emphasis to different colours and placing the final touches on it.  I use a really great set of brushes in Photoshop, that I bought from Portland Studios, designed by Justin Gerard.

I love painting digitally.  I don’t find that it takes less time or effort than painting with physical paints, but I love bright luminescent colors, and painting on the computer is very like painting with light.

Tower of London Digital Painting

When I was a kid, about 7 years old, I was often invited to go to a neighbor’s house to play.  My friends had a light box with a plastic sheet/screen on it that had tiny holes through it sized to hold colored plastic pegs.  The kit came with a variety of drawings etched in white on black paper.

The idea was to place the paper on the screen, push the colored pegs through the paper and the light behind, inside the box, made the peg light up.  Punching those colored pegs through that black paper and seeing them light up brilliantly in the otherwise dark room was something I still remember vividly.  The thrill of the finished ‘work of art’ gleaming in super bright colors!  I guess some things about a person just don’t change with time:  painting on the computer nowadays gives me similar delight.

Painting digitally is also a great way to investigate compositions and colors for a painting. I’ve used the computer to create a rough reference for a couple of the egg tempera paintings and also for some watercolor paintings.  It’s an excellent way to experiment and learn. From now on I plan to make a digital painting rough part of my routine work flow to use as a reference in painting an egg tempera or watercolor piece.

Here’s one of the sketches, from the movie Chain Reaction, I drew and inked using a Pentel brush pen.

At Party Brush Pen Ink Sketch by Nat Wildish

'At Party' Brush Pen Ink Sketch


Pen and Ink Sketches

Friday, November 13th, 2009

I’m trying my hand at pen and ink sketches. I have tended to avoid drawing people, so that’s mainly what I’m concentrating on just now. It’s turning out to be a great deal of fun, not to mention challenging.Ink Sketch of Fellow by Nat Wildish

I choose scenes from dvds for movies we’ve watched recently, so that I don’t spoil a movie for the next viewing of one that we haven’t seen in a while.  (I love movies).  Ink Sketches by Nat Wildish

Sketching from dvds also provides a perfect opportunity to study the composition and layout of scenes and shots. How does the camera focus on the person in the scene? What is shown in addition? Where are the people placed and where are they relative to one another? There are so many tips to learn from directly just by doing this, which is great for honing skills to create works of art that excel in visual storytelling.

Here’s a closer look at the top sketches… (As usual, you can click on the images for larger view.)Ink Sketches by Nat Wildish

In the past, I have often thought I should sketch, and on a couple of occasions I made feeble starts at it and gave up. This time I’m going all out – and the experience is so much fun that I can surely recommend doing it.  Even my previous short forays into sketching just for the sake of sketching have contributed to helping me get going this time. Every little bit helps….

Ink Sketches by Nat Wildish

If you were hesitating about whether ‘to sketch or not to sketch’, give it a try!

Just let go, don’t worry about bumbling it (you can always hide those – I do) and go for it. I’d love to hear from you if you sketch, or if you have any thoughts or suggestions on sketching.


Gex Town Hall Watercolor Painting and More for the ‘Gex Book’

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Here are a couple more watercolor paintings for the Gex book.  The first one shows the side of a house with roses growing along the wall beside a window.Roses Gex Farmstead Watercolor Painting by Nat Wildish

I really liked the wild, free, rugged beauty the place has.  It’s part of an old farmstead in the countryside on the outskirts of Gex.  In a previous post, Walking In The Pays de Gex, France, you can see photos taken in the same area, and there’s also a photo taken on this same farm of a tractor with ducks and geese all round it.

The painting below is of the Marie, or Town Hall, of Gex. Front View of Gex Mairie Watercolor Painting by Nat Wildish

I love the variety of colors used to paint buildings in this part of France.  The buildings are often painted in pale pastels, and occasionally, as in the case of the Town Hall, they’re a bit more vibrantly attired.


Working With Photographs As Reference For Paintings

Friday, October 16th, 2009

There are many stages involved in creating a painting of a scene.  I’m an indoors type of painter so I like to use the convenience of a camera to record the details of a subject for future reference.  Using photographs for reference is really great, if a few things are kept in mind and a couple of  pitfalls avoided.  The main elements that I have found to be of vital importance are:

  • composition
  • color
  • perspective
  • free nature of the art

Attention to Composition

The first thing to do is to capture the subject or place that you’re interested in with the camera.  This can be a bit tricky. The number of photos I’ve taken only to find, when I get home, that they just don’t have what I’m looking for to inspire me to a painting. I’ve written a few posts about what I look for and strive for when taking photographs.

Cropping a photograph can make a tremendous difference to the feel of the subject.  Understanding composition and using it to show off your subject in the most flattering way can change a prospective painting from dull and commonplace to really eye-catching.

I really liked this photo of trees in a park in England.

"Stourhead Majestic Trees" Reference Photo

"Stourhead Majestic Trees" Reference Photo

Cropping it to an oval brings focus and a kind of movement to the trunks as the eye is drawn into the painting.

"Stourhead Majestic Trees" Egg Tempera Painting

You can see more about the park that inspired this painting in a previous post:  Egg Tempera Painting of “Stourhead Majestic Trees”.

It’s also fun to put together a composition from a variety of reference photos, as was done with the “Knight and Monument” watercolor painting shown below.

Knight and Monument Watercolor Painting

The monument is a war memorial from a photo I took in London from a double-deck bus; the trees are from the French Jura mountains; the greenery in the foreground was taken from a flowerbed in Geneva; and the Knight and his horse are taken from a variety of shots of people on horses from a movie – the man on the horse is different from the one on that horse in the movie. Creating this painting was a lot of fun.

Another facet of  composition to be aware of is to exclude any details that are present in the photo that aren’t essential to the meaning of the piece, or may even be distracting from it. In this reference shot of a road in the town of Gex, France, the removal of the trash cans and cars, along with all the markings in the road, helped to focus on the real essence of the scene.

Reference Photo for View of Gex Town Hall from houses and church

Reference Photo for View of Gex Town Hall from houses and church

Below you can see the watercolor painting, “Gex Church View”, that resulted from using this photo as a reference.  The lamp that you can see at the top of the photo wasn’t included because it distracts from the main focus of the scene and draws the eye up, when it’s important for the art to draw the eye into the painting.  View of Gex Town Hall from houses and church Watercolor Painting by Nat Wildish

The painting is for the Gex Book.  The back of the Gex Church is to the left, and there are houses to the right. Looking down the street you can see the dark grey turret of the Town Hall; it has the same distinctive clocks on all four sides. Beyond is the Geneva valley.  In the distance, Le Saleve is visible to the right.

The Importance of Color

Color is one of the things that is probably the most influential of all factors in a painting.  At least, I’ve discovered that this is true in my perception of artwork.  If the colors are appealing to me, I am often immediately drawn to a painting, and then I look closely at the subject of it.

Even though I’m strongly driven by color, it has taken me quite some time to begin understanding how to use color to the most benefit. A short, but very clear article, that I’ve found very helpful is at “What Is Color Theory”.  I have also found the image of the color wheel shown on the book called  “The Color Star” by Johannes Itten to be useful.

I haven’t read Itten’s book however, since one of the customer comments on mentioned that his books are extremely good, but that they are rather heavy in theory and somewhat complicated. Perceptions of complication are somewhat subjective, and whether it’s the case or not for this book I don’t know, but I decided to wait and see if I could achieve what I wanted with paintings before committing myself to further study!

The thing about cameras and computer screens, and printers for that matter, is that most of them all portray the same colors a bit differently.  Some cameras are set to give a very bright, colorful rich image, while others tone down a lot of colors and almost give a blue tint to everything. My larger camera does the latter.

So it’s important to remember the colors and lighting of a place or subject that you saw as best as you can. Some artists do quick sketches and watercolors on site so that they can better remember the essence of the light and atmosphere of the place.  Then they combine this with the use of photographs to provide more details.  James Gurney has good articles on this and many other subjects at his blog Gurney Journey; one in particular on this subject is Using Photo Reference.

The reference photo shown below is somewhat limited in its color appeal. And there’s a tourist in the way! (No, I didn’t take this photo, but I was there.)

Reference Photo for View of Le Saleve and French Alps from Gex

Reference Photo for View of Le Saleve and French Alps from Gex

I decided to portray what I know of the atmosphere and feel of the place in the following way with the painting, “Gex View Across The Valley”:View of Le Saleve and French Alps from Gex Watercolor Painting by Nat Wildish

This painting too is one I’ve just completed for the Gex Book. There are spectacular views from the town of Gex, which is located in the foothills of the French Jura Mountains. In this painting you can see to the south of Gex, across the valley towards the city of Geneva in Switzerland.  Le Saleve is the first set of hills on the other side of the valley.  Le Saleve is in France and not Switzerland, the Swiss border ends pretty much at the foot of Le Saleve. The mountains beyond it belong to the Mont Blanc Massif.

Draft page layout Gex Book by Nat Wildish

Draft page layout Gex Book

Here you can see how it looks in the page layout for the book.  In a previous post I mentioned that the other sketch that wasn’t yet completed on this page (which happens to be this painting, and is now completed) would be of a view down the valley towards Bellegarde – well, turns out it wasn’t – this one also faces towards Le Saleve! But there is a view looking down towards Bellegarde in at least one painting still to be done for the book, and it will be painted and shown here on DweezelJazz Art blog eventually.

Look out for Proper Perspective

Many camera lenses distort.  Even with anti-distortion on, the distortion of lines, especially towards the edges of the image, can still be very pronounced. I was so surprised when I started looking more closely at just how much distortion can go unnoticed by the casual glance at a photo. It’s almost as if the eye makes up for it.  But in a painting, I think it’s a different story. If the perspective is odd, then it most likely will get noticed, especially if it’s unintentional!

Making the Art Unencumbered and Expressive

It’s super easy to get lost in all the detail that a photograph provides.  It can become an all-consuming goal to try to portray the scene or subject in all it’s complexity, with the utmost accuracy.  Unless this is done with extreme care, this can quickly kill the feeling, life, and atmosphere of a piece. It’s very good to consciously decide in advance how much detail is wanted, and how it will advance the aim of what the painting will convey.  Always staying aware of atmosphere, feeling, and even the emotions of the piece will help to maintain the focus of the goal for each painting.  It will also help to consider these things when choosing the predominant colors for a painting.

More important than detail or accuracy is the conveyance of meaning, atmosphere, life, and what the artist finds uniquely interesting in a scene or object, rather than to present all its details in accurate duplication.  Individual expression and viewpoint is what makes creating and observing art so endlessly fascinating.


The Next Set of Watercolor Paintings for the Gex Book

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Last week I did six more watercolors for the Gex book, completing the paintings for two more pages and starting a couple more pages.

There are many walking paths  in the mountains and foothills just behind Gex and every once in a while there are signposts showing directions and, sometimes, distances or walking times.  Here’s one such sign (click on photos to see larger image):

Gex Country Walkway Signpost

Gex Country Walkway Signpost

A river runs through the lowest part of the town (as rivers often do) and right next to the river there’s a fountain. This is sometimes used by a nearby car repair shop to check where the holes are in punctured tires.  The river runs just below, to the right of the railing; the house on the right is on the other side of the bank.

Fountain Near River In Gex

Fountain Near River In Gex

Close to the fountain on the other side of the river, and on slightly higher ground, there are very old parts of the town that lead upwards behind the old town wall.  The next painting shows the view looking up one of the narrow staircases from the street.

Narrow staircase leading up to house in Gex

Narrow staircase leading up to house in Gex

These last two paintings make up a page in the book.  The page is shown below; it’s a rough draft of the image layout just to give an idea of what it’ll look like.

Rough Image Layout Draft of Page in Gex Book

Rough Image Layout Draft of Page in Gex Book

I’m painting whatever scene appeals to me at the time of choosing, so the pages aren’t being completed in book page order.  Higher up the town the streets are steep, and some are fairly narrow and are pedestrian walkways only.

View from Gex in direction of Le Saleve

View from Gex in direction of Le Saleve

Looking over the wall of one such walkway the view is expansive, looking out towards Le Saleve, which is also in France, but is on the other side of Geneva, Switzerland.  If you’d like to see more about Le Saleve you can see previous posts: A Car Trip Up Le Saleve, Part I and Part II.

This painting fits on the page of the Gex book shown below.  This week I’ll paint the other scene that you can see as a sketch on the right hand side of the page, showing a view from the town looking south down the valley towards Bellegarde.

Draft Image Layout for a page in the Gex book

Draft Image Layout for a page in the Gex book

I chose a couple of bright, colorful little paintings for the sheer fun of it.  There’s a very nice cafe on the main street in Gex.  Every weekend there’s a market on this street, so this cafe is very popular with the market stall keepers and customers alike.  There will be a couple of paintings, for the book, of both the inside and outside of this cafe coming up in the future. Their cups and saucers have always been a great source of fun.

Gex cafe, PMU, coffee cup

Gex PMU cafe coffee cup

And there are often very interesting sugar cubes, bright and cheerful.

Sugar cube bowl at the Gex cafe, PMU

Sugar cube bowl at the Gex PMU cafe

These two paintings are arranged on a page to the left of the page that will show the inside of the cafe.

Draft Layout of Images on a page in Gex book

Draft Layout of Images on a page in Gex book

Stay tuned to DweezelJazz Art blog to see the painting of the inside of the cafe, and others, as the Gex book is being completed!


Fancy Napkins

Monday, October 5th, 2009

A couple of weeks ago we were in town and we went to the Place du Bourg de Four (in Geneva, Switzerland) for a coffee.

Place du Bourg de Four in the Old Town Geneva, Switzerland

Place du Bourg de Four in the Old Town Geneva, Switzerland

As we were leaving we noticed an ice cream bar and decided, on the spur of the moment, to get one.

Place du Bourg de Four, Ice Cream Bar on the left row of cafes and shops.

Place du Bourg de Four. The ice cream bar is on the left in a row of cafes and shops.

They had these very cute napkins:Fancy-Napkin-01

I brought a few different designs home for fun; it turns out there are a total of eight different designs in this series.Fancy-Napkin-02

On the back of the napkins is a link for the design company Camal.Fancy-Napkin-03

This week I’m back to painting in watercolor – the next batch of drawings are ready.  You can see the last set of paintings for the Gex book in the post, “Watercolor Paintings of Scenes in the Pays de Gex, France“.

Drawings for book about Pays de Gex, France, ready for painting in watercolor

Drawings for book about Pays de Gex, France, ready for painting in watercolor


“Lotus Flower” Egg Tempera Painting

Friday, September 25th, 2009

Last week I painted a lotus flower.  I really liked its glow of golden yellow light that merges and fades into the brilliant pink petals.

The painting is 18″ x 9″ (54.5 x 22.5 cm).  Here it is (the original painting is slightly more red-pink purple, rather than the more blue-purple as it looks here; the colors also blend more smoothly in the painting, but I’m unable to faithfully reproduce red-tone colors digitally).  But this gives the idea:

Lotus Flower Egg Tempera Painting

Lotus Flower Egg Tempera Painting