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Help Please

Hey guys, I feel a little selfish here, I don't think I have a lot to help others as I am trying to get where I fell good about my paintings. When I first saw Marks site, I thought I knew a lot about what I was doing. I have since learned a bit about what I don't yet know. I thought I was pretty good, but you can't be very good and be lacking so much information. I have learned so much from Mark's vidio and AZ's comments. Thanks so much to you guys and all the others who comment. Mark said "Just match the color and put it where it goes." Wow, I am still trying to do that. And then there is the part about matching the color. I am so struggling with that. I worked with black and white photos as I started with Mark's method and decided to try a color picture to have something to match. I seem to have a great underpainting and have no idea why I can't get to a finish. Are my shadow areas to much of a contrast. or just the wrong color. please help, Thank you all, keep it up.


  • OK, here is another painting I have been working on. I feel I have the same problem on each painting. I used a Black and white photo from the internet of Joseph Two Bulls, and a color picture of a horse.
  • I start trying to match the color, can't see its off until I put it on the canvas. then I have to wait until its dry to go over it again, with the same problem. I am sloppy and try to go too fast. ok I answered my own question.
  • edited May 2013
    Don't feel selfish, the questions you ask are probably questions many would like to ask but are too shy to ask. So the answers you get will likely help several other painters on the forum. I'd like to help (if I can) but let me ask you a couple of questions. How exactly are you checking the color that you mix against the color in the photo? Do you have the photo laminated? How big is the source photo as compared to your canvas? Are you using the slow dry medium? Those pieces of information may let me or someone else help you figure out what's going on.

    -Scot White
  • Scot, the photo I have is quite small, I put glass over, and do have sdm.
  • edited May 2013

    Having the SDM will make things easier. However, you have two things working badly against you. First off when you place the mixed paint on glass over the photo the paint itself creates a shadow under the glass on the photo and it makes it nearly impossible to accurately check the color. I know this first hand because I tried to use 1/8th inch plastic when I first started. It was a disaster and all my colors looked right to me when I checked them but wrong once they got on the canvas. I guarantee you that if you go to an office depot and have them heat laminate the photo for $2, your color mixing problems will be nearly solved immediately. Secondly, Mark recommends that you have a photo the same size as your canvas. It may be a bit of a hassle to go have a photo printed (or multiple photos) but there is a very good reason for it. I can tell, for instance that your photo was too small to actually check the color for the whites of the eyes of your subjects. So you used the color that you assume it should be and consequently the whites of the eyes are too white. The same thing often happens with teeth. The photo has to be big enough to check even the very small areas. The colors that you end up mixing will surprise you. They won't look anything like what you assume they are. Give it a try.

    I hope this helps you, I believe if you get a bigger source photo and have it laminated, your results improve immediately. Your drawings are so good to start with that the quality of your final product should be immediately very good. I can't wait to see your next attempt.

    -Scot White
  • Thanks Scot! I will do that. So much to learn, but its all good.
  • I know a lot of people like to laminate their photos for color matching and it is a good way, but I find it so much easier and quicker to buy a small pack of crystal clear photo sleeve for a three ring binder. It is clear as or clearer than laminating, Oil an mineral spirits will not harm it. I have used these for years and they work beautifully and I don't have to go and get them laminated or be constantly buying more laminating material to do it myself. I slip a photo in a sleeve and I am working and never left my chair in front of the easel.

    I can help you on both of these paintings. It is not so much that there is a lot wrong, but some of the fixes will be better understood if I get into detail and can use the pics posted to copy and use to point things out and re post with the corrections and how it was done. The problem you are having is the same in both paintings. It is a combination of value, color intensity and temperature. If you would like me to do this and I will be happy to show you privately or on forum. Your choice. :)
  • @AZPainter I like the idea of photo sleeves for 3 ring binder for smaller photos. My current canvas is 20x16 and the photo is 20x16 as well. You could cut the photo so it would fit in the sleeves and that would work fine but I just happen to live near an "Office Depot" where they laminate it for me for 4 dollars. Do you use a specific brand of sleeve or are most of them ok for the purpose?
  • Thanks again Scot, I will get an enlarged copy today and I think they can also laminate for me. like you said, smaller ones can be in sleeves.
    @ AZ, anything you can tell me I will treasure, It might be helpful to others on the forum, I don't mind being made and example of. Ha.
  • I usually print out any reference photos in 8x10, so fitting in the sleeve is not a problem, but at 16x20 it is obvious sleeves won't work, so laminating is the way to go in that case. I did not realize you enlarged them that much. Nothing wrong with it, in fact bigger is better. For me those sometimes large photos become a bit unwieldy, but it is purely personal preference. If I need to see something larger I will use magnifying lenses mounted in a head set, like a jeweler might wear. It just dawned on me, as a dentist you probably have used some magnifying glasses in your work. :)

    As for which sleeves work, I would imagine most plastic sleeves will work. The ones I use are Avery Crystal clear. A pack of 50 is around $20, but that would last me a lifetime. I buy the smaller packs of I think a dozen. I would have to go look to be sure of the amount of sleeves, but a dozen seems right and they have lasted for years now and I am not half way through the pack. Nor for storing photos I buy a better, archival clear sleeve from a camera supply company here. These are a little more costly, but a different purpose. Something many don't realize is the old film made prints like we had before digital cameras, could be painted on with oils and wiped off with no harm to the print. I knew a lady who did still lifes of pre-Columbian pottery. She would get permission to photograph pieces in museums private collections and such. When she got her prints back from the developer she would paint back grounds of different colors to see what was most pleasing to her. Worked great. My problem was she painted in what I term Kodacolor, instead of true color. She was and is very successful, so what do I know. :D LOL!
  • AZ, not a dentist, I designed and constructed custom homes and additions in Southern California, ( Some of which are in line of Fire at the moment). our version of tornados. I always have done artwork on the side, but have raised two wonderful children with my wife and you have to work your but off to do that. I did mostly stone and wood carving for most of that time but an ocasional portrait when I could. Love it and want to do it full time, not necesarily on commision, as I have about 30 portraits that my great grandfather took that I want to paint. I thought I could learn the colors I needed and be able to come up with a reasonalble interpretation of the black and white photo. Just seemed like I have a way to put my self in touch with the photographer and subject.
    The good thing that has happened is I am finding out what I need to know to get better. Here is one of the photos I worked with and my painting of it before Cader method.+
  • edited May 2013
    @Jag I'm the dentist :D Nice painting, by the way.

    @AZPainter I found a drawing board that has little clips at the top that hold the photo securely. I just put that on an easel next to my canvas (on a different easel). I'll post a photo of the setup. 20x16 laminated photo on left

    I do indeed wear magnification at work at all times and yes, at all times while painting. (See photo). I think it changes the way I paint significantly. I really enjoy fine details and working like that. It does make me very slow. I'm hoping to speed up as time passes but in reality I seem to be taking my time even more of late. I'm going to go buy some sleeves, thanks for the tip.
  • You are welcome Opnwyder. :)
    Jag, sorry, I should have made it more clear who I was responding to. :) I used to live in California, (Orange County) a couple of times, mostly when I was in racing, and I have a lot of friends living there, so I know about the fires. WOW One friend just retired from the San Diego Fire Department as a captain when he retired. So I have some up close and personal accounts and photos of some of the fires. Really scary stuff.

    You did a nice job of interpreting B&W to color. Using Marks method will help tremendously with color. Using B&W can be a good way of learning to see value. I say "can be", because a lot of old photos are faded. Often they are even second and third generation reprints from either a daguerreotype or Tintype. Some are even on glass. The photo you used is one of these and it is faded, which made your work harder. I usually see what I can do to improve one of these with Photoshop. You have to be careful as you can change the values to much, but sometimes only a desaturate click will do it. Not always, but sometimes. Another problem is these old photos read colors different from what B&W film does. I do not know why this is, but I saw examples of this at the Museum of The American Indian in Washington D.C. They had the original photo and the actual article of clothing right beside the photo and the colors were not even close to what I would have guessed. A similar article was in Native Peoples Magazine a few years ago. what I am about to say is not a criticism unless you were planning on being a western artist. :) but it was caused by the photo partially and maybe a lack of knowledge on old west clothing and how it folds and such. You painted what is known as a capote on the figure, that would be correct, but you painted it like many were made from wool trade blankets. This one though is made of buffalo hide that has been well tanned , called "brain tanning." This is the method used by American Indians back then. The dead give away is the fold coming from the armpit on the left side and the way the collar does not lay down flat. Wool would lay down much like a modern day hoodie sweat shirt as blanket capotes had an attached hood, almost identical to a hoodie, just thicker material. This capote you did well with the color as brain tan is sort of a slightly off white leaning toward a yellow cast, sort of a cream color and with dirt, grease and wear it became slightly more yellowish as you have in your painting. This is a detail, only important for accuracy, and not the quality of painting technique. The only reason I mention it is painting what you see. You painted this as a cloth material, bit leather. No biggie, but it means you are not sticking with what you see and that can effect color and value as well as drawing. I would suggest you use the horse to base color and value when changing Three Bears to color. Native Americans of the period you are painting in this piece had much darker complexions due to spending their lives in the elements and sun almost constantly. Many were as dark as the horse you painted, but not quite as much yellow in the color. Have you ever seen an Asian man who works outdoors in the sun and is deeply tanned? Particularly Chinese and Mongolian extractions. Well that is about the color Native Americans would appear. I used to base my Wyoming/ Montana painting trips out of Fort Washakie, Wyoming. As sculptor friend and his wife live there on the Shoshone/ Arapaho reservation. I saw and made sketches of the people who modeled for my friend (Richard Greeves). Many of these models worked outdoor as farmers, ranchers, and construction. I was able to see them as they likely appeared during the 1800's. It is a beautiful color with wonderful highlights and shadows.

    One other thing that would help tremendously is the background. Your color is as intense as the horse and more than the face and hand of Three Bears. Yellow can be tough to knock down and still be yellow. As the landscape recedes it becomes cooler (bluer) from atmosphere and sky reflection. Using a violet (ultramarine, Alizarin Crim. and white) as a modifier as you go back to the tree line which if you made almost blue and lighten the value as the land recedes, would push the figures forward and give depth to the painting. I would work on the face and hand first maybe add some darker values in the appropriate place on the horse. Once that is correct, then it will be much easier to see how light and how grayed down the middle and back ground needs to be. One other thing is clear skies or even slightly overcast skies are always the lightest values in the painting. Weather conditions like thunderstorms can make for dark skies. Your distant mountains will be slightly darker than the sky and a soft edge, particular at the edge of the canvas. I hope this helps.
  • Thanks for the great comments and info. I have heard that Western Art folks tend to know what the history is and look down on taking liberties with the facts. I was thinking that by 1878 when he took these photos that many of the clothing items were trade good from the local trading post at Pine Ridge. Some of the ladies dresses were prints that look european more that native made. I wanted though as you said to paint what I saw in the photo, not what might have been. I will try to fine out more before I just put a nice color on it. Can only be lucky some of the time. I understand the complexion issue, I grew up on a farm in Nebraska and know what years of that climate does to folks who work out there. Here is a picture Will Godkin took of American Horse's Daughter. Thats my Great Grandfathers chair. John
  • Jag, Not to get into a history lesson on the old west, but you are correct about the print material used in dresses, shirts and other things, but gingham. and form paisley prints along with wool, were being traded to the Indians as early as the Hudson Bay companies earliest exploits into western Canada. The Ashley-Henry parties left St. Louis following the basic Lewis and Clark maps and they had these materials also. A company in England, named Early's of England made trade blankets that became know as Hudson Bay Blankets because the HBC were the first to start trading them in the mid 1700's. These were used as blankets and the material used to make capotes. The reservation period at the end of the 1800's saw a lot more of these materials due to the fact the Indians were not allowed to hunt at the extent they once did and lack of game in the areas of the reservations. A very sad period in my opinion.

    I love that your great grandfathers chair is in this photo! I love stuff like that. Does your family still have it? I love old artifacts and especially when I can see them when they were in use at some famous period or like this with someone who lived at that time. Sorry, I'm also a history buff and especially the fur trade and Indian wars period. Big Lewis and Clark fan. :D Something I will never forget is one summer at my sculptor friends home at Fort Washaki, I was given sort of a tour of some famous sites, by my friend and there are quite a few in that area, but the icing on the cake was in his studio, a lady came in to look at the piece he was working on which was of Chief Washaki, father of Sacagawea (Lewis and Clark). This young lady was (I may get the "greats" wrong) Chief Washaki's great great great grand daughter! Washaki lived to be a very ol man and is mentioned in history books in several periods of the west, beginning with Lewis and Clark. He also had many wives, so which wife this lady, I met was from, I don't know. But talk about meeting history. WOW!

    Western art collectors usually are also very knowledgeable about the history a many collect artifacts from those periods. To be a successful western artist today, one has to practically be a professor of American History to paint. :) I learned it partly from doing western paintings very early in my career, but history, like art has always been a big interest for me since I was in school and my first history classes. I come from San Antonio,Texas, and like many native San Antonians had relatives who were connected to the great cattle drives. I had two great uncles that drove cattle on those trails. Sorry this wasn't art and probably should have been in a generic thread, but I hope it helped in some way. :)
  • Thanks again, all helpful, I will learn as I go along.
  • No don't have the chair, only have a buffalo head a cowboy taxidermist did for him. Handed down to me and my son.
  • Damit, just when I was starting to learn some things, everyone gets distracted. There i go, being selfish again.
  • edited May 2013
    I suspect they'll be back shortly :) .

    Are there any contemporary western artists that you particularly like? AZ has mentioned some in past posts but I only remember Howard Terpning. There was one artist who did beautiful works of Native Americans. I believe AZ said this artist had worked with one family in particular for years, I think it was someone other than Terpning. Although Terpning's paintings are great.

    I'm looking forward to seeing your paintings come to canvas using DMP method and your awesome photographs.
  • cin_D, There are a lot of really good western artists that don't approach the fame of Mr. Terpning. Ayers, and Greg Beecham who paints animals but his landscapes behind the animals are spectacular. I like the background more than the animals. Perhaps a little over dramatic, but make great pictures to look at. Seems to me we all have something to contribute no matter where we are experience wise. I know I have given some people(heavy on the word given) a cherished family momento by painting their family member. I have painted all my life and I am 68. But ignorance is bliss, just now because of what I have seen here, I realize how technically lacking and the amount I did not know. But for me, I am glad I didn't try to make art my business, I just want to get as good at painting as I can be. No pressure except what I put on myself to get better. There is allways people out there who will love what I do for them, because the content goes beyound the techniques. Here is what I mean, a couple of paintings I did over thirty years ago of my daughter, my most prized posesions, although technically not so good. Still they capture something nobody else could have done so well. Thats whats great about art. John
  • I’m an East coast girl and know little about contemporary western art, only what others on the forum have shared. Really liked your Native American photos and paintings you’ve shown. Your paintings of your daughter came up small, but I can see they are precious.

    I only started painting when I found Mark a few months ago. I’m a retired art teacher who worked mostly with Pre-K to 5th grade children. It was very enjoyable and rewarding work (play). I’ve dabbled in a few mediums over the years, photography mostly. Here are some of my photos, two of my grandkids and one of my “art” photos.

    Hopefully you will soon get more help with your initial request. I’m sorry I’m too much of a beginner to offer any solutions.
  • CinD, thanks for the comment. Great pictures, you have a good eye for composition. I am excited by what I have learned so far and trying to apply it, definitely not so easy. Beautiful grand kids.
  • It always looks soo easy, but it's trial and error. Marks way is a great way, but go slow and ask those questions about what color you are seeing as Mark suggests. A little too much one way or another and it's no good in the end.
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