Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ashepoo River: Painting Reflections in Water

"Ashepoo Tributary" 9x12 inches oil/Contact for pricing 803-336-8477
Happy New Year Everyone !!

The Ashepoo is a river in the lower part of the state with fresh waters turning brackish as it nears the coast. Along the way there are many interesting scenes because of its many tributaries. In this painting I have tried to capture some of the charm of this geographic area of South Carolina where woodland turns into low country marsh. This painting is still wet and unframed, but should be dry by January 7th.

Not that I am an expert in painting reflections, but I often hear other artists commenting on how much they want to avoid painting reflections in water. Here are a couple pointers that I can offer on painting reflections in water, especially when working with a pallet knife. Trick # 1: remember to retain a good amount of the same color that was used in the sky. Whatever the major color of your sky, you'll need to repeat that in the water. Trick # 2: If you want to paint good reflections of trees or grass from alongside the waterline, use the edge of your pallet knife to pull some of that grass or tree color directly down into the water, wiggling and easing-up on your pressure as you move downward. This takes some getting used to, so if you're not experienced in reflections you'll want to practice a little.

Lastly when you've repeated enough of that foliage color in your water, go back and scrape or paint a very fine white line along the edge of the water, not everywhere, but used sparingly it will help to define the marcation between land and water. Another thing to remember is that not all water is perfectly still. So by using wiggly hand movement and discontinuing your stroke as you pull down, you can suggest less tranquil waters. The more quiet the water you attempt to portray, the more mirror-like and perfect your reflection image will be. Also, distant reflections are more blurry or more faded, and closer reflections are crisper and carry more detail.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Columbia - Winter View

Here is a small painting that I recently finished for Prof. Leah Miller at USC. She requested a city-scape of Columbia because she likes local art. So I figured a winter scene was the most appropriate. This is a view of Columbia from the Gervais Street Bridge. I used mainly a pallet knife for this painting, but some brush work also. An effective technique for creating winer trees is scraping into wet paint. So with a carefully chosen underpainting color, scraping through to that layer with a narrow point, such as that of a brush's end or dull pencil will create that wintery tree effect.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fat Over Lean: Do's & Don'ts Of Underpainting

A good friend of mine and fellow artist Kim Coyne of Greenville, SC wrote me recently to ask about a phrase she heard at some art gathering. She wanted to know what someone meant by saying “fat over lean”.

“Fat over lean” is a phrase that easily reminds artists how to prevent layers of paint from cracking. You see the more oil a paint has in it, the more “fatty” it is considered. So the paints with less or no oils in them are considered leaner. If an artist remembers to paint in layers according to the phrase “fat over lean” he will remember that underpaintings can often be done in watercolors or acrylics while the top and final layering is done in oil, and never the opposite. Now while I was writing this article, someone asked if when painting with oils can the underpainting be done in oil paint also. While the answer is technically yes, the oil painting artist of today will probably do his underpainting in acrylic because it dries in 20 or 30 minutes with the same effect. If an oil painter wants to do his underpainting in oils also, then he will need a lot of time.

In a recent post in which I discussed “The Chemistry of Oil Painting”, I mentioned that oil paintings dry very slowly. Chemically the oil paints dry by forming a dense layer over the top called a film and this film allows the paint to oxidize – a chemical process similar to drying. Acrylics and watercolors dry much quicker through the evaporation of moisture in the paint. So if you have a layer of acrylic paint that becomes already dry and brittle on top of a layer of oil paint that is not quite dry, filmy and hence more flexible… you’ll end up with a flaking, cracking effect and the painting will continue to erode until the water-based (lean) paint totally flakes off.

Most all of my mentors and teachers in the art community have used an underpainting of some sort or another. Underpaintings no matter how simple or elaborate, allow certain shades to show through and sometimes help the painting on top to be crisper, richer and pop a little more. For example when I attempt to paint a blue sky I will often use an underpainting of a complimentary color… usually an ochre or orangey color. (check your color wheel if you’re not familiar with complimentary colors) I paint the white canvas in the desired complimentary color with acrylic paint, allow it 20-30 minutes to dry well and then I begin my sky with oils. Wasn’t it Rembrandt who also painted in layers to create his warm glowing skin tones in portraits? Do some research, check it out! And in the meantime remember to paint oils on top of water-based paints… or as we say “fat over lean”.

The above photo was taken by my buddy and mentor Mildred D. Dunevant in Hillsville, Virginia this weekend. Here in Edgefield we dodged the snow, but as seen in Mildred’s photo she might have a white Christmas.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Chemistry of Oil Painting

Above: "October Marsh from Sea Cloud Plantation" 14x18 Oil

You know the pigments used in most paints are basically the same. Often the quality of oil paints involves the concentration of the pigment or even the method of mixing the paint – what we call the binder.

With oils the binder is called a siccative – a drying oil – that hardens slowly and forms a slight film on the surface that stabilizes and hardens. When the paint (often mixed with linseed oil) is exposed to the atmosphere it “oxidizes” into a dry solid unlike watercolors which dry by evaporation. With oil paint, the drying time can take weeks or even months depending on the thickness of the paint that has been applied to the work of art.

• Tip: So if you plan on glazing or varnishing your finished oil painting, wait until it is totally dry. This could take a long time. Please patient, if you varnish a painting that isn’t completely dry the colors will bleed or “spider” with the varnish.

Linseed oil comes from flaxseed – yes the same flax that is often taken as a dietary supplement – but with certain additives that change the drying time and the way it films over or glosses over and hardens. There are other oil options such as safflower oil and I have seen walnut oil in oil paints before too. Be careful when you buy your oil paints because some of these alternative oils can yellow as they get older. I know that there are different grades and prices of oil colors, but often times we get what we pay for.

The dirty little thing about working with oils is that when it comes to the cleanup of your brushes, pallet, pallet knife and your hands is that you need an organic solvent such as turpentine or mineral spirits to really do the job. Some of my fellow artists use thick dish-washing detergent or baby wipes for cleaning their hands because they want to avoid soaking up the solvents through the skin. And if you want to be a green artist or environmentally friendly, you should never dispose of these solvents down the drain. They should be collected and taken to your county’s waste disposal site. They have proper places for such solvents and chemicals – yes even here in Edgefield! Happy Holiday Painting!
Share your oil painting tips via email ( or by “comment” here on the blogsite.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Uploaded more paintings for sale

Left: Russian Night

Right: Congaree River

South Carolina Arts

Here is an interesting site dedicated to the arts in South Carolina:

Painting together in Edgefield?

Here is a recent painting I did using oils and a pallet knife. Interested in getting together in the Edgefield area and painting? Let me know. In the meantime please share your comments and if you have art you'd like me to post send it to me. My email is

This painting I titled "The Ranch House"

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Antique Cedar

What was it that Frost said? I want to be a climber of trees or was it a swinger? That last option doesn’t sound so good does it? Anyway I am a tree lover. And one of my favorites is pictured here. This is an old cedar that is located on the top of the hill here on the Griffis Place. If what everyone tells me is correct, it must be a couple hundred years old. Mom said that her grandmother Carrie talked about the days when visitors would hitch their wagons and or horses to this old cedar tree. And I do remember seeing horseshoes buried into the side of the tree when I was little. During these recent droughts, it hasn’t done very well. I remember a couple ice storms that split it during my life. All in all I think it’s stood the test of time well. I love the old cedar.
Send me photos of your favorite tree.

Let’s talk materials: painting surfaces (canvases and canvas boards)

Classically when painting with oils one uses stretched canvases and there are some really good brands out there that are already pre-stretched and ready to paint. Some are even stretched around the edges. These are quite useful for those artists who like to carry the painting over the edges instead of paying an arm and a leg to have them framed. If you want to stretch your own canvases you’ll need plenty of materials, including saws (a mider box or mider saw for cutting the angles), sanding materials, wood glue, nails, brads, a hammer, clamps and a large flat surface on which to work. When I used to go to the trouble of stretching my own canvases, I would place my newly-made canvases in a hot bathroom shower after stretching the material over the stretcher bars… the steam from the bathroom shower would tighten the canvas as tight as a drum if exposed to the hot water and steam for a minute or two. Oh, make sure you buy gessoed artist canvas or you’ll end up having to stretch the material and then gesso it. The things we have to go through!

So I suggest buying your own stretched canvases. Prices range according to size, qualities and brands. The trick is to find the right canvas and stick to it. A brand that I really like is “Fredrix” (archival quality canvases) in both stretched and canvas boards. A less-costly brand of canvas board is “Art alternatives”. Be careful if you use canvas boards. Have your painting framed stiffly into a frame soon after it dries. Or if you’re not going to frame it right away, store it face up on a flat surface so that it will not bow. With the stretched canvases you don’t have to worry about bowing, but you sacrifice having that hard painting surface…especially useful to the pallet-knife painters.

• Tip 1: Avoid buying odd-shaped and sized canvases so that when it comes time to frame you won’t have to fork-out the extra bucks to have that odd-sized custom-made frame you want.
• Tip 2: Try continuing your painting around the edges at least once. The effect can be quite pleasing when the painting is mounted on a nice clean neutral-colored wall.
• Tip 3: When buying stretched canvases you might want to avoid the ones with stretcher bars down the middle (back) of the canvas. The bars down the back and middle of the canvas really cause problems during the process of painting.
• Tip 4: Visit

I’d love to hear your input regarding painting surfaces - especially pertaining to products, brands, pricing and function.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Crooked Run

Crooked Run is a small tributary that runs around the whole of my folks' place here in Edgefield. Most people up around here call it the "old Griffis place". Crooked Run spills into a larger creek called Turkey Creek. Turkey Creek joins up with Stevens Creek and eventually empties into the Savannah River over there in the North Augusta area. Anyway Crooked Run is a favorite place for the dogs to visit. So instead of grading more papers this morning, I took Lily for a long walk along the banks of the creek in case we were rained-in this afternoon. Thought some of you might enjoy looking at some of the views here on the old folks' place. And Pat Conroy thinks that the "low country" is something special. Well the ridge and foothills regions are just as special. I'll show him one day!

Friday, December 11, 2009

pallet knife painting: I'll never touch a brush again

Pallet-knife painting is something that I recently took on in Rob Shaw's art class. Oils are the perfect medium for this. The painting above is a shot of the Catawba River here in South Carolina. More to come.

Exploring the state: Inspiration

A recent trip to Botany Bay Plantation a new state wildlife preserve, proved to be quite inspiring for marsh painting. This is a jewel nestled in the marsh country south of Charleston. The land was given to the state and is the land of two old plantations bundled together. One of them was "Sea Cloud's Plantation" the other I forget. But after the Civil War they were returned to one family because they really didn't know to whom it belonged. Well in the end it was willed to the state recently and is being well-conserved now for all South Carolinians to come visit. But don't plan on taking anything, wildflowers, seashells from the beach or anything native from the property. And if you bring your lunch, plan on taking your garbage back home with you... no trash cans are on site. This park is a great venue for a leisurely bike ride. There are oak and pine woodlands, marshes and a beautiful natural beach. While we were there we saw porpoises playing just a few feet out from the beach. The marshs are incredible. And I was inspired to do quite a bit of marsh-scapes.

Art Class with Rob Shaw

You know I've gone on and on about this art class that Rob Shaw teaches. Here are a couple fotos I took not long ago in one of his classes. As you can see we were having fun. Rob I hope you don't mind my sharing the fotos. Opps, there are Amy and Tommie as well. Interested in learning to do pallet knife painting like I have desrcibed? Check out Rob Shaw's web site. He has information about his art and the classes he offers.


Up early today heading to Columbia to finish giving final exams for the fall semester, I noticed the sun was peaking through already at about 6:10am. There was this huge purple cloud blocking the sun but peaking through in many shades I could see it rising. Somehow at 6am it didn't seem so cold, but later today around noon I was outside speaking with a couple colleagues and it was truly frigid.

Talking to my fellow colleague and close confidant Professor Leah L. Miller at USC today, the subject of painting and art came up again. She confessed that she really liked a painting that I did recently of Gervais Street looking up from the river... I guess nowadays we'd call it "The Vista". Leah also added that she had recently been looking for art from locals and by people whom she knows.... simply because it means more to her. Here's a good suggestion: some good buys on art and antiques can be found on Saturday mornings in Columbia at some of the flea markets and antique malls around town.

Well I've decided to do another version of a painting that I already did earlier this year. I think this time I'll include less vegetation and emphasize the buildings and the street of the Vista. The above photo is one of said paintings inspired by local artist Rob Shaw. Rob has been a real inspiration over the past year. I'll tell you more about him and his work later on. He's the resident artist at Haven's Frame and Art Gallery. You can check out his award-winning art and information on classes at "". Leah, your request is one of my projects intended for the Christmas break.

Oh by the way, has anyone noticed those nice yellow trees on the Capitol grounds? Are they gingkos or what? I mean the Christmas tree is beautiful there, but with that blanket of yellows behind it, who can resist staring while stopped at the corner of Main and Gervais. Yummy. I was in a trance this morning when the light turned green on me and there I sat gazing at the trees... honk honk someone behind me was just being pushy. Come on folks, stop and soak up some of the really beautiful things around us!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

An invitation to this adventure

2009 was a very important year in my life as a budding artist. I even hesitate to call myself an artist, except now I can truly say that I have been paid the ultimate compliment for any artist... I was paid for a couple of my paintings this year. As exciting as this is for any artist... a novelist, a poet, a chef, a photographer or in my case a painter, the first time anyone is actually paid for doing something that they enjoy doing can be a very spiritual and moving experience.

So in order to share a bit of my experience as an artist I have created this blog. Firstly though I wanted to create a outlet for my rambling observations as an artist/art-follower. You know, the things that pop into my mind as I drive to work and home. How the tops of the trees look like skeletan hands reaching-up into a richly colored sunset or how there seem to appear a million grades of blue in an early morning sunrise, my encounters at the art-supply store, or my experiences in working with other artists. Secondly I wanted a place of my own to showcase some of my paintings and ongoing projects in oils and watercolors.
Lastly, I have so much going on upstairs that this is almost therapy for me. I hope that there will be a few folks out there somewhere that will follow, comment and share with my adventure. Send me your fotos of art work... whatever creative things you've done and I will post it on the blog for all to see and comment. Like me, this is a work in progress. I'm learning as I go. TTYL Andy.