Thursday, December 20, 2007

Color--A Natural History of the Palette

"Canyon View (Study)" 8x8 inches, Oil on Panel
Jerry Lebo, 2007

Greetings. I hope everyone is having happy Holiday season. I am looking forward to getting some extra studio time, as I have started to work on a series of landscapes that I have been thinking about for at least three months. It has taken me that long to get the concept together in my mind. The above study is the first of the series, which I am hoping over the next few months will come together as a cohesive statement on Southwestern landscapes. I will be doing some larger paintings over the period, as well as many of these smaller studies, and will post them as they come off the easel. Stay tuned.

Anyway, I am reading a book that I wanted to make recommendation about--in case you are looking for a last minute present for the artist in your life or looking for something to read over the Holidays. The book is called "Color: A natural history of the palette" , by Victoria Findlay. In a roundabout way, this book speaks to one of the issues I have been mentioning in my blog--the (over) abundant availability of pigments for artists. The book does a good job of putting this modern phenomenon in context--and clearly makes the point that for most of modern history, access to color and pigments has been a struggle for artists--including rug makers, textile makers, and painters. Today, however, the problem of access to color is largely solved by the invention of chemical and man-made substitutes for previously natural sources. For example, I was just in the art store and noticed that Winsor & Newton sells 12 different yellows alone. I can imagine JMW Turner falling to his knees at the sheer sight of the W&N rack!

As I have said in past posts, it is my experience that the wide availability of artist paints is in fact a detriment to the beginning artist. The natural inclination is to buy a wide range of these colors and to start painting with them right out of the tube--putting in some white or black to adjust the value. The results will not be pleasing. Most of the modern paints you buy at the art store are so overloaded with pigments--that it is a wonder that anyone can get them to work in a painting. Personally, I find that I spend most of the time mixing a paint not to get it the color "up" (in chroma)--but to get it "down" so that it doesn't jump off the canvas or ruin the whole harmony of the painting.

To me there is a question if we need all these modern colors. My normal palette for almost all paintings, including the one above--is simple: cadmium yellow, cadmium red, sap green, ultramarine blue, and titanium white. Sorry, but the lack of "Bismuth Yellow" has never stopped me from making a decent painting. On the other hand, it would be very easy to ruin one if I had a tube of it sitting around or a bit squeezed out on the palette. You have to have a really good reason to squeeze Prussian Blue out on your palette--it is like setting off a hydrogen bomb.

So, back to the book. What I like about this book is that it reads as both a travel journal and history lesson on the sources and use of various artist's pigments. Each of the chapters focuses on a particular color--such as red, white, yellow. etc. , and examines the history and cultural context of its production, sale, and use by various artists. Some of what is in the book I had learned from various other sources, such as the source for ochre paints. Or the reason, sienna and burnt sienna got their names. However, there is so much more that I didn't know, I have enjoyed reading each and every page.

Here are some tidbits to tempt you:
  • Michelangelo’s unfinished painting "Entombment (1501)" was probably left that way as he was waiting for his valuable shipment of ultramarine blue paint to arrive from Afghanistan--where it is still made today;
  • Turner was a big fan of the paint "carmine", a red which is considered "fugitive" and thus would have faded in color quickly. As a result, many of his paintings do not look anything like they would have when he painted them. Turner used some pigments that faded very quickly, even during the period of his own lifetime, but he refused requests from his patrons to "fix them" even though he knew that his choice of pigments was the cause. In later years, he used "iodine scarlet" which was known to fade very quickly--even within 6 months from first painting.
  • For most of the last two centuries, the main source of red pigment has been an insect. Even today, some of the products you consume use an acid produced by this insect as a natural food coloring--including Cherry Coke. It is also commonly still used in makeup, so you may be rubbing it on your face.
Anyway, I hope that is enough to consider getting a copy of the book. I think you will enjoy it. And, since you can't paint 24 hours a day--it will give you something to do during breaks from the easel.

All the best, sixtyminuteartist.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"Relative" Value and Color

"Red Licorice Laces", Oil on Panel 6x6 inches
Jerry Lebo, 2007

Okay, I know what you’re saying "red licorice laces", why would someone do a painting of such a thing? Well, the answer is for two reasons. First, it was a commission from a collector--and you know how I feel about turning down commissions. If not, you can read my post on this issue. Second, I really like painting unusual things--I also did a post on that sometime back. I find that painting something unusual can free up your painting process. Painting unusual things also seems to make people paint more loosely--I guess because they can take it a bit less seriously. Finally, it is good every once in a while to paint something different, since it is easy to get into a rut with your paintings--pretty soon all those trees start looking the same. Painting something unusual also forces you you to do (and possibly) learn something new. Try it,

The “Red Licorice Laces” painting is a good example of what I want to talk about today, which is "relative" value and color. That is, when you go to mix a certain value or color, you have to understand that the color or value will change depending on what you put next to it. This is a point I cannot emphasize enough, so let me say it again in another way. The value or color you are mixing on your palette is not the color you will see on your painting--as it will change depending on what is already in your painting. Here is a diagram that demonstrates this well.

In this diagram there are two different colors/values that are very close to one another placed across three different backgrounds. The top set of values from left to right are all the same value and color, as are the bottom set. It think everyone will be able to see that the same value/color appears darkest when on the lightest background and darkest when on the lightest background. The color also changes slightly. In the middle box, you can also clearly see the slight variation in the small change in value from the top and bottom set. This is because the background value is between the two values, which has the affect of accentuating their difference.

So what does this have to do with the "Red Licorice Laces". Well, the above principle of relativity not only applies to hue (color) and value, but to the intensity of a color. When I set out to paint "Red Licorice Laces", it was clear to me that the laces were relatively dark in value--even where the light was hitting them. Thus, the challenge was going to be how to get a sense of light into the laces without putting white into the red paint--which would have just dulled it down and made a horrid pinkish color. The answer, which I had learned over years of painting, was to raise the chorma of the color, not the value.

How did I do that? First, as I started the painting, my main focus was getting the values correct. I first focused on the relationship between the background, foreground, and larger shapes in the mass of licorice. Overall, I could see that the highest value in the licorice was around the value of the background--but it was much more intense. So I kept the background rather neutral and around the mid-value range--and painted the rest of the licorice in various tones in the lower range of red. When I was ready to "pop" the light into the licorice, I went for a straight cadmium red--which has the highest chroma (intensity) of any red. The nice thing about cadmium red is that I know that it is right in the middle of the value scale (here, the same as the background)--and since I had painted the rest of the licorice in either lower values and/or chroma, it reads as light to the eye. In fact, here is a picture of the painting in black and white. You can see that it is the intensity of red (chroma) that reads as light--not the value.

I wanted to show you this effect so that you would understand not only is every color or value relative to what you already have put down on the canvas--but there are times when you can use the fact that the eye sees chroma as light to your advantage. For example, if you look up at the sun it appears to be a very high value. A setting sun, glows a bright orange that is intense. Most beginning painters want to put white into orange to make this effect--but this approach will never work--since white just reduces the chroma value of orange. If you take out your white paint and hold it up in comparison to a setting sun, it will appear to be darker--so not only are you reducing the chroma of the orange by adding white--but you are moving it towards a value that is lower that what you are after. Artists have for centuries painted setting suns--so how do they do it? The answer is that they exploit the natural tendencies of the eye--which is to see everything relative to what is next to it--and mistake chorma for light. For example, you may already know that putting a very slight bit of cadmium yellow into white paint makes white "luminese" (appear to go up in value). So white is in fact not the highest potential value on your palette in relative terms--it is white with a bit of yellow. Try it. Put some white on your canvas next to white with a touch of yellow--and the latter will appear brighter. Now, add a neutral gray around the yellowed white--say of a mid range value of gray--and it will really start to glow. Get the picture?

So what does this "theory of relativity" mean for your art. How can you apply this in your art right away? I have three suggestions to think about next time you are painting:

1. Think of more than one option --when mixing a value or color, the tendency is to focus on only the color/value at hand. That is, you imagine the color you need and try to mix the the color/value directly. But, this is not the only option. For example, if you want to increase the value of a certain area of your painting, you can also lower the value of what is around it. If your value is already high (say, near white or slightly under), then the option of raising the value will not work in any case. So, try increasing the chroma--not only the value. Raising the chroma works particularly work well in shadows to give a sense of reflected light. For example, put a color with the same value as the shadow--but a bit of color/chroma in it--and it will read as reflected light.

2. Know your Materials. Most tube paints are at their highest chroma straight from the tube, and will diminish in chorma if any color is added--even white. So learn the value and chroma values of the paints you are using. Here is a link to a chart that gives you both the value and chroma relationship of most tube paints.

3. Keep a Reserve. Never mix a color that is close to your darkest dark or lightest light early in the painting process. If you do, you will have nowhere to move up or down later--and you will find yourself painting all you other values in relative terms. If you are painting in a 9 interval value scale, for example, paint between values 2-8 for most of the painting--and at the end come back and add accents of your darkest dark or lightest values. You will see, it is the highest values and darkest darks that give a painting its sense of light (of course, also reflected lights, to a lesser extent). You will see that a few strategically placed darks and lights will really give your paintings a sense of light.

Well, that is it for today. I just wanted to give you some ideas as you head into the weekend painting period. Get out some of your art books and see if you can find a case where another artist has used chroma to portray light (hint: Sargent and Sickert were masters of this approach). Then try to do it in your paintings.

All the best, sixtyminuteartist.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

How to Paint Loosely

"Two Pears (monochromatic study)", Oil on Panel, 6x6 inches
Jerry Lebo, 2007

"A painting requires a little mystery, some vagueness, some fantasy. When you always make your meaning perfectly plain you end up boring people."
Edgar Degas

People often ask me how I keep my paintings “loose”. I think what they mean by "loose" is that my paintings look like they were done spontaneously—and do not appear overworked or over-polished. However, my wife will tell you that they don’t always come out this way. She often comes into my studio and tries to stop me from continue to work on a painting when she sees it is going well. Many times I have ruined a painting trying to "improve" it—an experience that I am sure you have had yourself. It is very easy to do the wrong thing to an otherwise good painting thinking you are going to improve it—only to find that it has become dull or drab. As Degas says, you have to keep some vagueness and mystery in you paintings—even if your gut reaction is to paint it away in the name of making it look more refined. Degas also always said that "no art was less spontaneous than his"—and that the final output as the result of “reflection and study of the great masters.” Appearing spontaneous takes a lot of work!

One of my students has asked me to help her paint more loosely, so I have been working to design some exercises to assist her development in this regard. In my mind there are two parts to get a spontaneous feeling in your paintings. First, you have to paint with clarity and conviction—and not be afraid to let the process take over a bit. Second, you need to understand what is important to making a painting work. That is, what is essential to a painting so that it can hang by itself on a wall and draw people’s attention?

One can talk about what makes a painting good or bad for hours (and people do), but I wanted to design a practical exercise to help my student discover it herself. So I thought I would share with you what I have come up with.

You will see that I am going to undertake the demonstration as a monochrome painting. One reason is to show you that making your paintings appear spontaneous does not require you to splash colors all over the canvas haphazardly--which I see a lot of out there. In fact, it is more likely to ruin your painting—than make it better. Also, I want to show you that, regardless of how spontaneous your paintings look, good value relationships are important. The student I am working with has a good sense of how to see value relationships—which I think the beginning painter needs to spend a lot of time focusing on before moving to the next step. If you cannot see values clearly—it is going to be difficult to loosen up your style and keep in all under control. So work on values first if you are just starting out—you can see my previous post for some ideas on how to do this.

In my mind, the key to painting “loosely” is rapid and confident decision making. When you move your brush from the palette to the canvas—you need to think of the stroke you are about to make as an indication of a shape and value, not the actual shape or value. If you have laid out your palette correctly, with your values clearly set out, then once you have loaded the brush with paint--the value decision is done. Thus, moving to the canvas to put down a stroke is your shape decision. What I mean by "indication of shape" is that you don't want to try and match exactly what you see so much--so much as what you feel is there or what you want to say about that shape. Simplify what you are seeing to its most basic form.

Here is an exercise you might try to better understand what I mean--a timed painting which limits in the amount of time that you spend at each phase. Get yourself an egg timer or kitchen timer and do the following exercise with whatever subject matter you feel most comfortable. A small still life or landscape study is fine--but I would suggest using a smaller canvas. Before starting, set out your palette in a seven or nine value scale with black and white at the ends.

1. The sketch (five minutes)--give yourself five minutes to put a sketch down using your next to darkest value. Don't block in any values--just focus on the silhouette and making out the major shapes and shadows. You can correct the drawing as much as you want during the five minutes--but when the timer stops---you have to work from what is there. I did this last night--the following sketch took 41/2 minutes.

2. Large Masses (10 minutes)--working from dark to light, give yourself 10 minutes to block in the major value changes in the painting mainly using your middle value ranges--stay away as much as possible from the darkest darks and whites during this period--you will need these later. You should be looking all over the painting to make sure the relationship between the various objects and background make sense. Do not paint any details--or go for perfection. Get the canvas covered and make corrections to the largest masses until you have something that sits well on the canvas. Here is my demonstration painting at 10 minutes.

3. Dimension and Light (10-15 minutes)--focus on getting a sense of mass and light into the picture. If you have done the second step correctly--the objects will be there in roughly the right relationship--but lack a strong sense of light or mass. Focus on two areas of work for 10 minutes. First, transitional values, look for areas where two values are coming together--but the change is too abrupt so that it draws the eye too much. Put a value between the two values down as a transitional value--don't make them up--look for them in what you are painting. They are there--but a bit harder to see. Avoid putting too many transitions in the area you think will be the final focal point--you want to keep at least 1-2 sharp transition here. Once you have a few nice transitions down--move to your lighter values and darks and begin to work the highlights and shadows. Look for places where a bit of your darkest dark or lightening of a high value in a certain area will bring up the sense of light. This is basically subdividing the larger masses into a darker dark and lighter light--but you want to think about how this effect light. Don' t do it everywhere--only where you think it will bring up the overall sense of light in the painting. once you feel the sense of dimension and light is going well--take the last 5 minutes of this part of the exercise to really develop and draw the viewer to the focal point/area. This is where it is okay to add some details to the painting and sharpen transitions. If you are adding detail--do this with small one-value, or less, changes within a value area you are working. If it is place where light is hitting the object--go for increasing the value change--for instance--see if there is a place to but a black to white transition (or similar) in the focal area, for instance, where a dark shadow and lighted area met near a shadow. You should only have one large value change (black to white) in the painting--so if there is another part of the painting where you have such a variation--this is the time to revise that one, for instance--rather than white to black. In the secondary area, try taking the white and black up and down one value in the scale--they will still read as light--but not compete with the focal point.

5. The evaluation. Step back and give yourself five minutes to consider the painting and make final changes. This is the last chance--but if the first phases have gone well--there should only be minor changes needed. A good way to see what the painting needs at this point--which should be small strokes or adjustments,--is to step far away and look at the painting from 10-15 feet away. Or leave the studio and reenter as if the painting was there and you were looking at it for the first time. Look at it quickly and make the first change that comes to your mind with either a brush or finger. You are looking for small tweaks at this point that will improve the painting--not perfection.

In total, this exercise should take 30-45 minutes--but not more than an hour in any case.

Try it out--let me know if the results are more satisfying to you. Let go of your fear of making a bad painting. Also, remember that whatever you come out with--there will be people who cannot see what you were after and would liked if if you had done it differently. It should satisfy you--and say something about what you were trying to acheive.

All the best, sixtyminuteartist.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

How to Make a Painting from a Drawing

"Thanksgiving View (Study)", Oil on Panel, 8x8 inches
Jerry Lebo, 2007

The fall colors in Maryland are nearly gone, but I managed to get out and take some pictures just before the Thanksgiving weekend. I had the feeling that the leaves would be off the trees soon and on Thanksgiving Day a cold front came through with wind gusts up to 50-60 mph. Needless to say, most of the remaining leaves blew off the trees, so I am glad I got out in time to get some pictures of the red and yellows of the fall. The above painting is based on some of the photos I took around a creek near my house. I have been thinking about making some larger paintings, and this little study will be good reference material for a possible future large painting. My plan is to do some of these smaller studies—and then pick the best ones to make into larger paintings over the winter.

You may also have noticed that I have not posted for nearly a week. I have been a bit busy at work these days, and I have been working on this particular post for most of this week. I also have had two new students sign up for lessons, which got me thinking of what a challenge it is to teach art. I mean, how does one get ideas across in a way that students can learn quickly--things that have taken me 20 years to learn? Most of the ideas I want to relate to my students, I have talked about in my blog, values, color harmony, drawing, etc. However, it is one thing to say it in my blog—or even during a lesson—while it is entirely another for somebody to be able to take it forward in their own work.

With this in mind, I spent my studio time this week working through a demonstration painting covering some of the key issues I have been talking about in my blog. The idea comes from an exercise that I assigned to one of my students, that is, to start with a drawing and take it through to a painting. In executing the assignment, my instructions were basically to copy the tones in the drawings into the painting—introducing color/value combinations that are consistent with those of the drawing. This particular student said she has good drawing skills, so I put her to the challenge. I always remember hearing my former teachers, “Painting is drawing with color.” It has taken me 20 years to figure out what this meant—and I hope you will understand a bit of what this means by the time you finish reading this post.

So let me start by giving you an overview of where I am going. The student I mentioned liked to paint animals—and she had done a few paintings of geese and other animals. She showed me a few painters that she admired—and I tried to talk her through some ideas on how she might move her work in the direction she was thinking. After taking a look at her work and discussing ideas, it was clear to me that she needed to work on her sense of value, color harmony, and focal point. That is a big agenda, so where to start. I decided I would start her off with a simple exercise as follows. The basic approach is to find a drawing or picture where you feel comfortable that you can identify the values--and using you normal drawing materials--make a thumbnail or small sketch of the subject. At this stage, you want to pay particular attention to the values you are seeing. From that drawing--or other source material--the next step is to mix colors equivalent to those values and make the same sketch--only this time using paint. To make it easier, let me summarize the process into three practical steps:

1. Make a Value Scale. Make a value scale on a piece of paper or canvas using your drawing materials. The scale should have your darkest value at one end (black, or slightly lighter), and your lightest at the other end (white, or white with a very slight warm tone).

2. Draw your Subject. Make a drawing from a photo or life (or even from a drawing you find in a book) focusing only on trying to get the right values in the right place. For instance, draw the outline of your subject--focusing on the gesture--then find the various values in your picture and make the same shape/value marks in your own drawing. If you are a beginner, it is often easiest to draw from either a photocopy of a photo (so that it is only in black and white) or to use another artist's drawing. Refer to your value scale often for comparison. You want to choose source material that has clear tonal relationships--especially if you are a beginner.

3. Paint using the same Value/Shape Relationships. Once you have a drawing complete—mixed the equivalent values in paint, and either make the same drawing again using paint on canvas—or go over the drawing you have made (you can put shellac over it if it is on paper) and “draw with paint”. That is, put the paint down in the same shape/value combinations as the drawing.

Okay, got it? Simple, right? Well, let me make myself the guinea pig--and show you a demonstration of this approach (which took me around a total of 4 hours to complete in the studio):

1. Make a Value Scale. This can be done with any drawing materials, but to make it easier to execute--I am going to show you a very straightforward way to get your values down correctly. I went out and bought monochromatic pencils made by Prismacolor. They make a “French Grey”, "Cool Grey", and “Warm Grey” pencil set that is basically grey values. So, I bought one black and one white pencil—and then the five intervening monochromatic tints of the French Grey series: French Grey 10%, French Grey 30%, French Grey 50%, French Grey 70%, and French Grey 90%. That makes seven values--what I would call two accents (black and white--which should be used sparingly) and five evenly spaced values. Prismacolor makes the equivalent in warm and cool grey, so there are three possible color schemes to use for such an exercise. Here is what they look like:

2. Choose a Subject. In this case, I didn’t want to copy my students work--who wanted to paint a rabbit--so I chose a cow (calf), for which I had some reference pictures and drawings of in my files. I started by putting a value scale across the bottom of my drawing. I find this very helpful to help me to see relative values. Try it sometime, it is a simple way to improve your drawings immediately--you can use it to compare your values as you draw. You can see by the value scale below that the panel color is about the same as my third from highest value. I started drawing with my next to darkest pencil--not my darkest--which will allow me to go lower in value later in the drawing. You could use a high value--but I don't recommend it. In this first stage of drawing, I was mainly paying attention to the silhouette of you subject and try to get the gesture correct. I was erasing, and redrawing for around 15 minutes--and this is where I stopped this first phase.

Next, I started by filling in the shape/tones that I saw in my reference material. I essentially took each of my pencil values--and looked for the same value in my picture and then put that down where I saw it in my silhouette. I started with my darkest value and worked up. Here is what it looked like after I put my darkest value/shapes into the drawing.

I proceeded this way for around 30 more minutes, erasing, drawing shapes, changing values. I tried to find distinct shapes and then put the value down in the same shape and value I was seeing. Here is where I stopped with the drawing--and felt it was time to start painting. I basically felt like I had enough information down to get a good start on the painting--and to demonstrate the next phase.

2. Mixing the Equivalent Values in Paint. Before I started to paint, I took the time to mix a full set of values equivalent to the pencils I was using. If you have problems mixing these values/colors--many artist's paints come in premix tints. If you buy black, white, and three pre-mixed values--you can mix the intervening values from these. In any case, I have had a lot of practice mixing paint, so this took less than five minutes to mix the below set of equivalents. where I was uncertain about the value--I would simply compare and adjust against the scale at the bottom of my painting.

I started with the darkest two values--keeping my brush clean between value changes. Here is what it looked like after a couple of minutes. I am using a #5 Bright brush, and you can see that I am trying to put down the shape and value at the same time.

Another five minutes later this is what it looked like--as I moved to the lighter values.

And here it is after about 15 minutes--you can see I am starting to put the background down. I am also starting to lose some of the strong shapes and value relationships--so I am going to have to go back and correct some of those. This is a very important thing to remember--you must be always look and be ready to change what is not right in your painting. If the values or shape is not right--scrap off the paint and change it. As soon as you start to feel there is something in your painting that you do not want to change--or are not willing to change--then you are in trouble.

I worked on this painting for maybe around another 20 minutes--and this is where I ended up.

And here is the painting at the end of the first session--after around 1-2 hours of total work--including drawing, mixing, and painting.

The next morning I got up and went into the studio and hated what I had on the panel. It is not bad, but it was not what I was after at all. I really wanted to get the sense of that awkwardness of a newborn calf--and this was not it. It was too much like a cow. So, what did I do? What all artist should do when they are not satisfied. Start again. So I scrapped off the entire painting--and decided I would start again that evening. Here it the panel scrapped down--which leaves a "ghost image" to start from the next day. Many of my best paintings have been made after scrapping off a painting that was not going well--you should not be afraid to do it.

That evening, I came back to the painting and starting again by mixing each of my values to match my value scale--and started painting in value shape combinations in my drawing. I painted for around 1-1.5 hours and stopped when I thought I had the sensation that I was looking for--the feeling of looking at a newborn baby cow. And here it is:

"Baby Calf (monochromatic study)", Oil on Panel, 8x8 inches

So there it is, a short painting lesson in how to go from a drawing (a not very good one at that), to a painting. I have always said that if it doesn't look good in black and white, it will not look good in color. I hope you can see what I mean from the above example. This is a monochromatic painting--and of course it would be more compelling in color--but would it be more convincing?

So here are few things to keep in mind:

1. Make bold decisions. Pick a shape and a value and put it down.

2. Don't be afraid to change something on the painting--painting is the process of conviction, evaluation, adjustment, re-conviction, and adjustment. It is a constant process of adjusting what you see on the painting--versus your subject. Fight for the image.

3. Keep your brush and values clean. If you are not cleaning your brush properly during the painting process, your values will change and your painting will lose its solidity. Clean your brush with thinner and dry it between every value change.

4. Focus on Value Changes. Look hard at what you are painting--and focus on where you see the values change. Make the same value changes in your painting.

Hope you enjoyed this mini-lesson. Go to your studio and try it out.

All the best, sixtyminuteartist.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

How to Stretch an Art Canvas

"Nearing Utah", Oil on Panel, 6x6 inches
Jerry Lebo, 2007

I did a post a couple of weeks ago titled, "How to Make an Inexpensive Frame for your Paintings" which turned out to be popular. It was noted by The Artist's Magazine's blog, so a lot of people tuned in to that post. It seems that everyone appreciates a good DIY post, so to make it easier in the future, I have put a listing of my DIY posts on the right-hand side of my blog under the title "Do It Yourself".

Given all the DIY euphoria, I decided to do a post about how to stretch an art canvas. Yeah, I know what you're thinking--doesn't everyone already know how to do that? Well, I think you'd be surprised how many people don't. I remember teaching people how to stretch canvas when I was at the Washington Studio School and Holton-Arms School (where I was the visiting artist back in the 1990s and my friend Lee Newman still teaches). It is the type of thing everyone assumes every else knows, so no one takes the time to teach it. In my experience, even people who are painting regularly don't necessarily know how to stretch a canvas. I see a lot of people going into the art store and buying ready made canvases. I guess it is like frame-making and panels, why do it yourself when you can buy it at the store ready made?

In my mind, there are good reasons to learn how to stretch your own canvas. First, if you are traveling, stretching canvas can save you a lot of weight. You can take a mix of various stretcher bars and a roll of primed canvas or linen--and when you are done painting--simply un-stretch your paintings, roll them up, and take them home. You can even ship the bars and leftover canvas back home through the mail if you get in a bind. Try carrying 20 large panels on an airplane or in your luggage--panels are heavy--and they are cumbersome. The other reason to learn how to stretch canvas is that it is a quick and easy way to have something to paint on--in any size you want.

All said, in my experience, the most important reason to learn how to stretch a canvas is to save storage space in your studio. The method I am going to show you also allows you to un-stretch and store your paintings flat or rolled once they are dry. You can't do that with the pre-stretched store bought canvas--since they don't have enough overlapping canvas to re-stretch them once you take them off the stretcher bars. Also the quality of the pre-made canvas generally is not good--and they are typcially not very tightly stretched.

So let's get started. Here is what you need--some canvas or linen, stretcher bars, a tape measure, canvas pliers, something to mark with (pencil?) and a staple gun. I prefer the standard JT-21 staple gun, which is what they sell at art stores and some hardware stores. You don't want to get a staple gun that is too big or strong--since the staples will either not penetrate well or will be too big and possible weaken the canvas.

The first step is to put the stretcher bars firmly together. If they don't go together easily, use can a hard surface so as to have something to press hard down upon. Some people like to use a door jab to assist and keep the corners square--however, just because you use a door jab--doesn't mean they will be square--so you need to measure as well.

The corners should fit tight, like below, when all the bars are together.

Once you have all the bars tightly together, the next step is to make sure they are perfectly squared up. This is a two step process. The first step is to make sure the distance vertically and horizontally between the bars is consistent. Since you are usually not stretching a square canvas, this means the distance across each paired side should be equal. To check, measure the distance across one side at two points near the corners of each stretcher bars. I have used two measuring devices in the picture below to demonstrate where to measure, but you will only need one. The distance at two points near the corners--around where I have place the measures in the below picture, should be the same. If not, adjust the stretcher bars by pulling the appropriate end until the distances are equal. Repeat this process across the other pair of bars.

Once you have sides consistent, the next step is to make sure the stretcher bars are squared--that is, at 90 degree angles. The way to do this is to get the diagonal distance to be the same across corners (assuming the first step was done correctly). As per the below picture, measure the distance corner to corner across one side, then the other.

If the distances are not equal, the easiest way I have found to get them equalized is to place the frame on a firm surface and push the top stretcher bar sideways (not downwards) in the direction of the shorter side. For example, if the measurement from the left hand corner to the bottom right is shorter--push the top bar towards left. It doesn't take much of a change in the sideways direction to make a big change in the diagonal measure--so don't over compensate. If the difference in distance is less than an half inch, for example, a slight tweak to the left should be enough.

Okay, so if you have the stretcher bars squared up and equal distances apart--the next step is to fix them together so they don't shift while stretching the canvas. To do this, I put three staples across each of the four corner joins as in the below picture.

The next step is to mark out your canvas piece. I like to use a stretcher bar to do this. For some reason, the width of a stretcher bar is just the right size for the extra canvas you will need to ensure a tight stretch and to un-stretch and re-stretch the canvas later. The first step is to square up the frame to a straight edge of the canvas. In this case, I have used the lower edge, which I know is straight. Then I have placed the bar on the right side, to make the first line.

Once you have all four sides marked, you can go ahead an cut out the canvas.

Place the canvas face down on a clean surface and put the stretcher frame on the canvas. Make sure the side on which you have stapled the corners is facing up (towards what will be the back of the final canvas). To help center the frame, you can use a stretcher bar along one edge to guide you. Once centered, start by pulling up one side of the canvas and put a single staple in the center of the stretcher bar.

Once you have one staple in the middle of the first stretcher bar--move to opposite stretcher bar and use you canvas pliers to pull directly opposite your first staple. Once you have a tight stretch--put in your second staple.

Once you have two sides stapled, move to one of the unstapled sides and put another staple in the center of the bar. Once you have a single staple in all four sides, the canvas should have a nice diamond shape in the middle. If it does not--take the staples out and start again. This is the most important step and worth repeating until you get it right--otherwise the canvas in not going to be tight when you are finished.

Once you have a single staple on each of the four sides (and a nice diamond shape), go back to the side you put the first staple into--and (using your canvas pliers to get a good stretch) put a staple on each side of the first. Then move to the opposite side, and repeat. Then move to the other sides, and do the same. Do not put more than two staples on any side at a time--before moving to another side. It is tempting to do one side fully, then move to the next--but you will not get a good tight canvas with this approach.

For this tutorial, I am stretching an 11x11 inch canvas--so only took five staples per side to completely attach the canvas tightly. Here is what a finished side looks like once all the staples in place. Notice, i did not put the last staples all the way at the end of the bar--but left a bit of a space. This is to allow folding of the corners.

Once you have all the staples in place, turn the canvas face down again and make the corners. I have heard these type of corner folds called "hospital corners"--since I think this is the way they used to fold sheets. Basically, what you do is fold the corner of the overlapping canvas towards the center--and then fold the remaining overlapping material over. Once you ahve the fold nice and tight--put a staple across the fold to hold it down. The canvas should be snug against the corner.

Once all four corners are done, I like to put a staple on the overlapping bits of the canvas--one or two is usually enough--and will hold the canvas snug to the back. Here is a picture of what the back looks like with all the staples in place.

And here is the finished canvas--ready to go.

So, there you go, a quick tutorial on how to stretch a canvas. I have stretched canvases up to 30x30 inches using this technique. If you go larger that this, you will need to use a cross brace to keep the bars from warping--or use heavy duty stretcher bars.

Hope you find that useful. Off to the studio--it's time to paint.

All the best, sixtyminuteartist.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Finding Support in your Artistic Process

" North of Taos", Oil on Panel, 6x6 inches
Jerry Lebo, 2007

"Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do”—Edgar Degas

I have been reading a book about the art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel called, “Discovering Impressionism”, which gives a detailed account of his life and business as an art dealer. It is a good read, but most of the information you may already know from reading about the various artists whom he represented, such as Degas, Pissarro, Sisley or Renoir. On the other hand, the book does give you a good sense of what it would be like to be an art dealer for artists that are not yet accepted. For example, Monet was completely broke when Durand-Ruel met him in London and agreed to represent him. Even 13 years later, at the time of the First Impressionists Exhibit, there was virtually no market for Monet’s paintings. One critic said about his Monet’s seminal painting, “Impression: Sunrise” (1873) that “Wallpaper in its embryonic stage is more finished than this seascape.” You can remember that next time you are having a bad day painting--Monet had many worse. If you read the book, you will also see that Cezanne seemed to get it worst of all--both from the critics and from himself.

Anyway, the reason I am bringing this up, is that I have been working on some landscape studies over the weekend, and have been struggling with my own motivations for the subject. I mean, why paint a landscape—why not just take a picture? I know it sounds a bit crazy, but landscape painting as a whole has not been around that long. It was less than 150 years ago or so that people even starting thinking that landscape painting was something to take seriously—and then mainly because there was no photography. People lived without landscape paintings for thousands of years and seemed to get along just fine—I suppose they would just look out the window instead. So why ruin a good thing and start hanging these colored scribbles on the wall? It seems a reasonable question.

When I started painting landscapes early in my artist career—I really didn’t think too much about it. I owned a French Easel long before I owned my studio easel—and going outside to paint just seem natural. However, as I have gotten older and more progressed in my painting process, I have found the same thing that Degas has spoken of--that the more I know about painting, the harder it seems to get—so why?

The first reason is that you start asking much more from paintings. Also, and I think most painters will agree, your artistic output always lags behind what you think you can do in your mind. In that sense, the painting you are thinking about, or trying to paint today—is the one that will come out at the easel in three or six months. This means artists are always a bit frustrated with their outputs—always challenged by “the next one” that is lurking in our head. This is probably also true of other creative processes, such as writing.

Which brings me to my point of this post, which is the need to find a process that works for you in terms of reducing the lag between what you want to do—and what actually comes out. That is, the need to make a stronger connection between your artistic vision and the practical process of making art. I think if you take the time to do this, it can be very empowering—and will provide a strong foundation for your work—which I think this is absolutely necessary to sustain yourself as an artist. I mean, what if a critic says that your paintings are no better than “embryonic wallpaper”—would you quit painting? What if they said it over and over again over fifteen years…in the local newspaper? I don't think many artists can honestly say they could still go to the studio everyday. I wonder if I could.

The good news is that the most potent antidote for the critics and self-doubters alike is to have a solid artistic process that supports your studio practice. What I am talking about here is a practical process that will get you back into the studio painting no matter what happens in your daily life. Of course, everyone has a slightly different way of going about their art, so I am not trying to say that I can give you a detailed plan—but let me tell you about some steps that I have taken that have helped me move in the right direction in my own process:

1. Take yourself seriously. As you have probably learned, there are very few people who take artists seriously and painters even less. Degas always said that this is why he never married, he didn’t want his wife popping into the studio saying—that is a nice little painting—why don’t you paint more like that? Everyone has so many pre-conceived notions about artists, if you say you are an artist—you are more likely to get a snide comment about what a nice hobby that must be—rather than support. Imagine, if you were to stand up at a party and announce you have decided to become an investment broker, no one would bat an eye. On the other hand, if you stand up and announce you were going to be an artist—most people would roll their eyes. Someone once said to me, “If you don’t take yourself seriously, how can you expect anyone else to?” I think this is worth thinking about--if you want to get people to support you—you need to do it yourself first. Would you take yourself more seriously if you were a heart surgeon? Hmmmm.

2. Think before you Paint. I think there is a great tendency to jump too quickly into a painting. I mean, what is all the fuss--get some paint, brushes, and a canvas—and away you go. For many years, this is the way I approached painting—and while it led to output—it usually did not lead to satisfying results. I have come to understand in my own work, that it is important to consider, before even lifting a brush, what I am trying to accomplish for each and every painting. I know it sounds tedious, but believe me—this helps. Once I have a clear idea, then I can start looking at the options in terms of composition, focal point, and basic color schemes. As I mentioned in a previous post, I find it useful to pick one simple idea or objective for each painting. For example, for a landscape—it might be a particular feeling of evening or morning light, or the color of a particular mountain or colors of the season. If this is too complicated, you can make it simpler—like the just capturing the mass of a tree or the color of a field. In my experience, the simpler and more focused the objective—the better the painting will be in the end. Also, having a clear objective in mind helps you to establish a process for developing ideas. For example—if you wanted to capture a particular time of the day—you can start by looking at how other artists have accomplished it, do some small studies and sketches, and work through the problem. The process itself will take you somewhere.

3. Have clear goals and a plan for your work. Making progress in painting is very slow. In my experience, it takes about 3-4 months of painting everyday to see even small improvement—and years to see any big gains. Thus, your goals and plans for your work need to reflect this reality. For example, if you want to get your work into a local gallery, it may take years just to get your work to the point when you feel you are ready. And, even if you are good enough today, you will still need enough work, the rights sizes and subjects, and a consistent style of work even to be considered—that could take months, if not longer. Personally, I find it useful to set clear weekly, monthly, yearly, and every five-year goals for my work. You can also have a long-term or lifetime goal—but these are mostly for dreaming. It is better to have more short term goals, than long term goals—since these are the ones that will drive your daily process. For example, a short-term goal might be to paint a small painting that really captures the feeling of the fall colors in your neighborhood—while a 6 month goal might be to make a set of paintings that you could enter into a local art show. The one-month goal is the one that will drive your immediate process, so you should take the time you need to achieve it. Do small studies, do some research, make it happen. Taking a slow, practical approach to your short-term objectives will immediately reward you, as it serves as support for you as an artist. After all, the first thing you will need to go to the museums to look at how other artist have done this, do some sketching, color studies, take pictures—really let yourself get into it. The deeper you go, the better your will feel about your work—and the more self-sustaining the process. Your spouse might even start to take you seriously.

4. Judge the process, not each individual output. It is very easy to make a bad painting. We all make them. Even the ones we think are good, often backfire. I am always surprised when the paintings I think are my best, other people don’t seem to like—while some of my worst (in my opinion) have been the ones to sell. Artists are not good judges of their own work. So how does one judge ones work? Well, if you are focused on clear objectives and are taking the time to prepared and execute, the outputs become less important as individual pieces to sell or show. What you will quickly see is that each painting is like the piece in a larger puzzle—leading to something else. Sure, some are better than others—but you might find for example, in that one I really nailed the colors. Or the composition in that one is what I was after. You will begin to see your paintings less as statements of whether you are a "good artist"--and more as imperfect children of your process.

Anyway, I hope you have found these ramblings useful—and perhaps inspiring. In my experience, a good artistic process will give you a sense of purpose and motivation—and provide support even in the most chaotic times. I usually close by saying, go to your studio and paint. But, today I think I will close by saying—go to your studio and think (but not too much)—then paint.

All the best, sixtyminuteartist

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Color--do you see what I see?

"America's Favorite Color (blue)", Oil on Panel, 6x6 inches
Jerry Lebo, 2007

“It is impossible to remember color precisely…color is a psychic effect.”--
Josef Albers

For those of you new to my blog, I am doing a series of paintings I call "America's Favorites", and the above painting is the third in the series. To learn more about the series, read my previous post.

So, I came across a book the other day at Border’s which I have since recommended to several people, it is titled, "Josef Albers: To Open Eyes". It was written by a former student of Albers and the curator of the Albers Foundation in Connecticut. I have read Albers classic book on color "The Interaction of Color"--but frankly never took the time to study it carefully, and I probably understood about 10% of it in any case.

Anyway, the Albers Foundation has a "by invitation only" artist-in-residence program, and my friend Mitchell Johnson was selected this year. He has been going back and forth between San Francisco and the Foundation for the past month or so, which got me interested again in color theory. I thus went to the bookstore to take another look at the “Interaction of Color” book and came across this new book, “To Open Eyes”. This book is an attempt to capture a record of Albers’ teachings when he was at Yale and Black Mountain College—where such notables and Rauschenberg and Twombly studied. If you don’t know about the Yale and Black Mountain programs of the 1950s, you are missing a big piece of American art history. Read this for starters.

Anyway, I highly recommend the “To Open Eyes” book—which contains detailed information and examples of how Albers taught color, painting, and drawing to his students. The only disappointment was that the book made me realize how deficient my training has been in these areas. It is a totally different approach than most art schools—where they basically set you up in front of an easel, get you painting, and then walk around and critique your work. If you lucky, they might give you some conceptual exercises—but don’t expect to be taught how to draw. Albers’ approach was totally different—and I think it shows in the quality of his student’s work.

Albers, to his credit, had a very clear vision for what it took to learn to be an artist—and it is consistent with what I have discovered over the years—and what this blog is about. First, one must learn to see—or as I have said many times—if you want to improve your paintings, “look harder”. Second, that good work habits and consistency are keys to maintaining an artistic process. Albers believed that the act of creating art encouraged self-confidence and independence—and was a powerful antidote to what he saw as a “culture of conformity.” Simply the act of making something has power for the individual if you do it regularly.

So, what does this have to do with this post? Well, there is an exercise that is mentioned in the book that Albers used do at the start of his color curriculum that I thought was worth telling you about. Essentially, he would pass out packs of colored paper to his students and then ask them to pick out the “reddest red” in the pack. Or he would ask, pick out the red that is the “Coca-cola” red. Of course, every time students selected different colors out of the pack as the reddest red or “Coca-cola” red.

Another of the exercises he did relates back the difference between value and chroma—which is one of the biggest weakness I see in most intermediate artists' work. To get his students thinking about this issue, Albers would ask students to use the colored paper and start pairing colors of near or equal values. Invariably, students not only disagreed on whether the paired colors were really equal in value, many times they could not even decide which color was lighter or darker than the other. He would also ask students to pair colors which were of equal intensity—again this led to disagreements among the students.

So here is your “Albers” test for the day. In the above painting, which of the following are higher in value: the green background or blue highlight on the tube of paint? Second question, is the brown of the table top higher in value or lower in value than the blue highlight on the tube? The answers are at the bottom of the post.

So why am I challenging you like this. Well, I have been saying that value is more important than color when it comes to making a good painting—which I think is true. But, that said, I also think that color can be used very effectively to get your messages across in your paintings—but you must understand that colors are relative to one another—and people’s perceptions of color vary. So, you must learn and practice color—don’t just go out there and start laying it on. The misuse of color is by far to quickest way to ruin a painting—I have seen it over and over again. I partly blame the paint manufacturers for making so many colors readily available. There is so much pigment in modern paints, and so many colors are available, it is a wonder that good paintings get made, seriously.

So, yes, blue is America’s favorite color. Pantone did a survey, and here are the results. I was actually surprised to see that red came in 12th in the survey—I suspect this has to do with their methodology. I found another on-going Internet survey where red and blue are neck-in-neck for America’s favorite color. I think this is a more true result. My perception is that red and blue are, in fact, the classic America colors. Why? It has become so ingrained in the culture. We have the red states and blue states, we have the red-white-and blue of the flag, and we have red fighting blue (think Confederates against the Union). So is red or blue America’s favorite color, here is a second version of my America’s Favorite Color painting (work in progress). I am posting both, so the viewer can decide—since color is in the eye of the beholder.

"America's Favorite Color (red)", Oil on Panel (Work in Progress), 6x6 inches
Jerry Lebo, 2007

Oh, I almost forgot. The answers to the above quiz are: (i) the green background is several values lower (darker) than the blue highlight; and (ii) the brown table is around the same value as the blue highlight. Oh, also, just for reference, the red highlight in the above painting—is about the same value as the blue highlight in the top painting--could you tell? My guess is that most people will pick the red as the higher value--since it is appears to "glow" more intensely. But, then again, maybe not to you.

So there are some thoughts on color perception for the day--with two examples. Go back to your studio and paint. But, please put away some of those tubes of color and simplify your life a bit. Think about which color you want to use—don’t just pick up the first blue you see—think about which one you need. I once heard it said, “you need a good reason to pick one color over another”—and I think that is good advice. BTW, I pick blue.

All the best, sixtyminuteartist.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

How to Build Low-Cost Frames for your Paintings

"America's Favorite Breakfast", Oil on Panel, 6x6 inches
Jerry Lebo, 2007

($100 . Click here to purchase).

I have started work on my latest series of paintings, which will be titled "America's Favorites". The idea has been lurking in the back of my mind for the last few weeks--and "Apple Pie Slice" served as a nice transitional piece. The idea for the series is to take objects from everyday life that are quintessentially American--and do a series of small paintings. Apple Pie is pretty obvious, but I am actually looking for some of the more subtle items that seem to creep into our lives and become standard American fare before we even realize it. To me, the bagel and cream cheese is a good example--it is not as obvious as apple pie or, say, bacon and eggs--yet it is now almost a standard breakfast for Americans. Stay tuned to see what I find next--I think you will be surprised.

Okay, so back to the post at hand. I have been promising to tell you how to make a low-cost frame for your paintings. As I said the other day, I personally like to send my paintings out "ready to hang" and have been offering a simple pine box frame with my Ebay (now Etsy) sales--for an additional charge of $10. So, let me show you have I make them.

The method I will demonstrate will work for a 3/16th inch panel, but the principles can be adapted to fit just about any thickness or type of painting. At the end of the post, I will show you how to adapt the design so you can use it for a painting on stretched canvas, for example.

The basic process starts with two pieces of lumber, which you can either buy ready made--or make from scrap or basic lumber stock (for example, 1x8 lumber). If you build them from stock, you will minimally need a table saw--but also preferably a router to cut a "round-over" on the front edge of the frame. You will see what I mean in a second. I have been using ready made lumber lately to save time--so let me show you that approach first.

The process starts with two pieces of store bought molding. I buy mine at Home Depot in the trim section--but I am sure you can get them at most hardware or lumber yards--if you are doing custom cuts--then you would make these from your stock.

The first piece is a standard piece of rectangular molding--11/16" by 7/16". The second piece is called "screen pine" and has a tapered (rounded over) edge--which probably comes in various widths. For my purposes, I am using a 3/4 inch width--which I think is standard.

The first step is to glue these pieces together using wood glue along the short side of the rectangular stock. I start by putting a bead of glue on the square stock (not the screen pine)--and then spread it with my finger. You will need to keep some wet paper towels around to wipe off your fingers and excess glue.

Once you have the glue spread evenly on one side, you want to clamp your screen pine (or rounded over stock). I use standard "c-clamps" from the hardware store. But I have also used vise grip pliers--in a pinch. Anything that will hold tightly as the glue dries. Be careful not to over tighten the clamps or you may leave tool marks on the wood that will be hard to get out later. When clamping the wood, I usually start at one end and work my way to the other. I may seem easier to clamp the two ends first, but this usually causes problems and warping in the middle.

Here is a picture of the pieces of wood clamped together. I usually put one clamp every 10-12 inches to get a good tight fit. For this eight foot piece--I used eight clamps. After all the clamps are tightened, go back and wipe off any excess glue. Especially if you plan to stain or paint the frame--since the glue with keep these material from adhering later on.

Here is a side view of the pieces after the glue has dried. You can see--it is basically a rectangular piece of word with a flatter piece glued to the side.

Now comes the fun part--cutting the miters. For this purpose, I highly recommend a good miter saw. This is mine, which I bought 15 years ago for around $100. I was just down at Home Depot yesterday--and you can still get a decent one for around $100. This one has saved me thousands of dollars in framing costs over the years. I suppose you could do this with a miter box, but I don't recommend it.

You want to take your time when measuring the cuts. I like to have a slight offset from the front edge of the frame to the edge of the panel of around 1/8th inch. Also, my panels (which I showed you how to make a couple of posts ago) are not always perfectly six inches. Thus, I usually use the painting itself as the guide when measuring. You want to measure against the top edge of the stock (along the raised edge)--not the bottom or outside. You see I have put the panel right up against where I want to measure--and I mark the stock to the width of the panel plus 1/4 inch (1/8 for each side of the panel) to get my offset. Then cut away.

After cutting your miters, I recommend you layout the frame to make sure it fits together. Many times I have found that I have overcut--or missed one of the cuts--and the frame is not square. Better to find out while you still have the saw out--then when you are trying to glue the frame.

Once the frame seems to have a good fit, I use a very simple tool that I love--the band clamp. You can get one of these at the hardware store when you get your wood--they are a must have for framers. I have tried corner clamps--but this device works much better. I glue both side of each corner--and then wipe off the excess glue that squeezes out after I tighten the clamp.

Once the glue is dry, I give the frame a good sanding with a medium weight sandpaper--to get rid of any imperfections or marks. I then will attach framing hooks and wire to the inside of frame. If you put them into the back--the picture will not hang flush to the wall. That is another reason I like this type of box frame--it allows interior mounting of the wire--not all frame designs do.

I mentioned that this design can be used for stretched canvas or linen. Here is a frame I built 15 years ago. I have applied a stain--but the design is the same--only the measurements differ. Essentially it is a back support--with a side piece that has been rounded off. I made these frames from 1x8 pieces of lumber in a friend's woodshop back in the early 1990s for a show I was having. I made 40 frames for around $4 each!

Mounting stretched paintings is a bit different than with panels--and is actually a bit easier. I simply used a wood screw and drill a pilot hole--then set the screw through the frame and into the stretcher bar.

So this is how this simple panel frame looks after it has dried--and the picture is mounted. You can see the 1/8 inch offset on each side, as well as the flush hanging. I think it looks nice, given the cost. I mount the panel into the frame using double-side removable mounting tape (you can get this at craft, art, or framing stores). You can use the permanent mounting tape--which holds a bit better--if you don't imagine changing the frame in the future. I use removable, since I am not sure if my collectors will stick with the frame over the years.

So how much does it costs? I went out yesterday and bought 24 feet of screen pine and rectangular stock for around $18. That is enough, if you measure and cut carefully, for around nine frames. I usually make a mistake that means I lose a few pieces, but let's say a minimum of 6 frames--that works out to $3 per frame per 6x6 panels. It takes about one hour to make a frame--not counting the time you are waiting for glue to dry. But you can save time by making a dozen or so at at a time. They look nice--and people appreciate having a ready to hang piece arrive in the mail.

Okay, there you go--my long promised tutorial on making a simple pine frame. However, don't go a make one right away--you need to go to the studio first and make a painting. Don't get distracted by frame making--that will come later--think of it as the reward for selling a painting.

All the best, sixtyminuteartist.