"ART is a word which summarizes THE QUALITY OF COMMUNICATION. "
L. Ron Hubbard

Friday, December 31, 2010

Best wishes for joyful and prosperous 2011

Drawing by Pam, Poem by Dean
Why We're Here

We were designed by the wind, frustrated
with its inability to inflate a balloon.

We were invented by dogs because after aeons
of licking only each other, they yearned for love
without hairballs.

We evolved from birds, who wanted to be able
to talk with their hands without being carried away.

We were invented by cats to tend door knobs.

We were invented by stones who wanted to reproduce
themselves, but could not set one stone
upon another.

We were invented by the night, grown tired
of having nothing to hide.

We were invented by the flowers, sick and tired
of color-blind bees who only wanted them
for one thing.

We were thought up by the fish, trying to imagine
dreaming with their eyes closed.

We were invented by the snow, dreaming of hugging angels.

We were invented by the fire to reflect it in eyes and cheeks,
for every other creature, fearing it, could not admire it.

We were invented by the sand to make fine distinctions.

We were created by the sun when he discovered
that, alone, he could light up only one side
of the earth at a time.

We were created by the rain, which could not
spell its name in the sand.

The earth made us in hopes we would enable it
to see where it's going.

We were made by the ocean to package its
salty elixir and distribute it to high ground
beyond the reach of surf.

We were made by mountains grown tired of crushing
everything they tried to embrace.

We were made by the full moon because,
though it could reflect endlessly,
it could not smile.

We were made by the trees, because they couldn't
hear themselves fall.

We were made by the grass to graze with our eyes
and gobble up the excess green.

We were made by the cockroaches because their faith
forbids suicide.

            by Dean Blehert

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Shack in the Woods

Shack in the Woods
This painting, Shack in the Woods, is mixed media. I laid down a thin multi-colored ground over the white gesso using acrylic and a sponge. The idea was to capture the busy-ness of the woods. Then I overworked with oil for the details. I'm particularly fond of the rock cliff behind and to the right of the shack.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Teaching Visual Arts

I'd like to tell you a little about my philosophy in "teaching" art, since the role of the teacher in a creative process is important.

Contemporary philosopher L. Ron Hubbard has said "Art is a word which summarizes the quality of communication." That's a very brief and deceptively simple statement.

I believe that we are all artists, and how GOOD we are depends on our application to the craft of our particular art (whether it is painting, or writing, or music, or dancing, or cooking, or whatever) as well as to that mystical thing we call "talent."

The teacher of art, I believe, is someone who knows the basics of that craft well enough to teach it and who, in addition, can recognize and validate the current and potential quality of his or her student's products.

In teaching, I am not trying to teach you to "paint like me" or to paint like some concept of "the right way to paint." I am trying to provide tools and direction which will help you improve what you want to communicate.

This is a world which focuses on Quantity. Quantity is important in that it takes practice with your basics and materials in order to improve the product. But when we focus on QUALITY, we are looking at how well the product communicates.

The extraordinary thing about a work of art, to me, is that every work of art is a new creation. I look around my classes and am delighted and amazed at what my students, at ANY stage of competence, can create.

If you are in the Reston-Herndon-Great Falls area and would like to take art classes, you can find out more about upcoming classes on my website, www.blehert.com.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The perfect "cool" yellow

For some time now, those of you who've studied with me will be aware, I've been advocating a palette (both in acrylic and in oil) based around the use of warm and cool variants of the basic red-yellow-blue triad. This was based on my interpretation of the book Blue and Yellow Don't Make Green by Michael Wilcox. But the cool yellow was always a problem. The closest I could seem to get in the store was lemon yellow or pale yellow.

But I have discovered Titanate Yellow, a very cool (almost greenish) yellow, and I know that it is available at Jerrysartarama.com from Golden (for acrylics) or Grumbacher (for oil paints.)

Colors are not particularly true on the web and can vary from website to website, but here are a few samples of the Titanate (or Nickle titanate) color.
Sample of Golden Acrylic's Titanate Yellow

And of Grumbacher's Nickle Titanate Yellow in Oil:

I consider this color a strong addition to your palette because it permits you to make a brillient green when paired with Phthalo Blue.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Five Winter Paintings

Winter 4
I've completed five tiny (8" x 10") winter scenes for a local realtor, who gives them to clients as good will gifts at the holiday season. Your can see all five on my website and also the ones I produced last year. These would also make good xmas cards and, as artist, I hold the rights to reproduce them as prints or cards despite their sale. Contact me if you are interested.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Some New Paintings by Pam Coulter

The following paintings are newly completed except for signing and edge painting. I thought you'd like to see them. Each of these paintings was done as a "demo" over several sessions. The first was done for my class in oil and acrylic painting at the Reston Community Center (Fall, 2010). It was done from a reference photo of the sun rising (or setting?) seen through the mist. It has a peaceful mood to it.
Mist on the River, 16 x 20, acrylic on canvas
The next painting, Still Life with Apples, was set up in my studio for a studio lesson with only 1 student. I wanted to keep it simple, and that simplicity is endearing, I think, with dominant browns and reds against a pale neutral backdrop.

Still Life with apples, Jug, 14 x 18, oil on canvas
For the second still life in the studio, I got a little more daring, with blues and greens dominant, offset by the brilliant orange. I am particularly pleased with the result. The book shown in the painting is a small book featuring the German Expressionist school of art.

Still Life with Oranges, 16 x 20, oil on canvas

The discovery of Prussian Blue

Browsing the web, I discovered a fascinating piece on the discovery of Prussian Blue on About.com/painting. You can read the article here.
I should say that Prussian Blue (and its more modern counterpart, "Thalo" or Pthalocyanine Blue) are very strong, staining pigments, not to be used in large quantities. They will overwhelm any color with which they are mixed, and they will overwhelm any painting if used in any quantity.
That said, Prussian or Thalo Blue is a warm blue which, mixed with lemon or zinc yellow, makes a bright, jewel-like green. I include it on my recommended limited palette because of that, but it should be used sparingly and with caution.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Current shows

Two of my paintings (one large and one small) were accepted in the Art League of Alexandria November show at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, VA.

"Uhaul" is 30" x 40" and painted in Acrylic. As reference, I used a photo I took in Florida of a Uhaul truck drawn up to a warehouse. The contrast between the very bright and controlled shapes on the truck and the truck itself and the shades of gray in the rest of the scene interested me.

Uhaul by Pam Coulter
"Rainforest, St. Kitts" is a very small ink and watercolor sketch done while on a cruise to the Caribbean. It is matted and framed to 8" x 10". I use watercolor for casual sketching and visual notes because it helps me "translate" what I see from the sometimes rather confusing "reality" of the photographic world to a more poetic one.

Rainforest St. Kitts by Coulter
They will be on display through December 6 at the Art League Gallery.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Art and "authority"

Be wary of anyone citing "authority" in the field of art. Art is about creating. So there will always be those who are creating new things, some of which will not be appreciated. Remember that the impressionists, the cubists, the surrealists, the abstract expressionists, were all shunned in their time. And today, there are those who would tell you that there is only one acceptable kind of art.

From my vantage point as an art teacher, often dealing with beginners who would put me on a pedestal because of my greater experience, I find it particularly important to remind myself of this. I am usually teaching "the basics." And the basics are important. But it is also important to validate the creation of the individual artist. He or she may not have the scene exactly right, or the colors, but that creation nevertheless is important.

The field of art is full of authorities. Listen to them, because they have knowledge. But beware of wholesale acceptance.

Here's an example: A student recently asked if she could use a fan brush to make the leaves on the trees. I immediately replied that the purpose of the fan brush was blending. Then I backtracked, because you could use a fan brush for foliage, and many do. It's not its original purpose, but — hey — why not?

Painting About.com website has more on the use of the fan brush.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What hue should you use

Here's some more on color from my book. Please note this is copyrighted.

Traditionally, painters use a color wheel whose primary colors are red, yellow and blue. A very limited palette of red, yellow, blue and white might include just permanent red, hanza yellow medium, ultramarine blue and titanium white. You will find, however, that, because paints are not perfect “primary” colors, you need a limited palette of at least two reds, two yellows, and two blues (one of each hue veering towards the “warm” and other towards the “cool” spectrum. Alternately, you could build your palette around the primary and secondary hues: red, yellow and blue would be the primary and orange, green and violet the secondary colors.

The history of the color wheel is interesting. In the mid-eighteenth century, scientist Isaac Newton’s experiments with prisms resulted in the theory that red, yellow and blue were the primary colors, although color theory no longer supports the concept that all other colors can be mixed from these primaries.

At the time of the Impressionists, some innovative theory on color was being developed.  A Mr. Chevreul was establishing a color wheel and Mr. Rood had just published a work on the theory of color in 1881. The Impressionists (and Neo-Impressionists) adopted these theories and arranged their palettes according to the chromatic tables furnished by the physicists.  "Following the theory that light, broken up in a prism, gives off seven colors, they adopted these seven colors on their palettes."  They excluded black.  Duranty, a prominent writer of the time, felt that they were handicapped by this.  Unlike the "true" Impressionists, Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, and Edouard Manet did not exclude black, but used it richly.  (This last information was extracted from Mary Cassatt 1844-1926, National Gallery of Art, 1970 Exhibition Catalogue)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Some color theory

The following is an excerpt from my forthcoming book. Yesterday, students my class at ArtSpace Herndon once again voiced a concern about how to mix color. This is a little information intended to help. As I've said before, the best way to help is to put paint to canvas.

General Color Theory

Hue is the property which distinguishes red from green. If you ask “what hue is the sea?” the answer might be: “Aquamarine” or “ultramarine” depending on where you are (and the weather). Hue is determined by the wavelength of the color. The colors of the rainbow are considered hues. Browns and grays are not hues.

Value (lightness-darkness) applies to color as well as the gray scale. Yellow has a naturally light value and blue has a naturally strong (dark) value.

Saturation refers to how much pure pigment of the desired hue is present versus medium or other hue. You can de-saturate a pure color by adding white, gray, black, or the complement of the color. Saturation is often referred to as color intensity or chroma, although chroma has a slightly different meaning to a purist. (Visual artists don’t usually seem to pursue this distinction.)

Temperature refers to whether the color is perceived as warm or cool and is a relative term. Red may seem warm in relation to blue, but may seem cool if placed next to orange.

These attributes (qualities, properties, or characteristics) work together to create depth and composition on the two-dimensional plane.

There are some additional terms, such as “shade” (amount of black added) “tint” (amount of white added, and “intensity” (the brightness or dullness of a hue). But I think the main concepts it’s important for a painter to get are the first four.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Use of reference material in creating "ART"

Often, when teaching a class of students using photos as reference material, I find myself pointing out things that they haven't seen in the photo, or correcting their drawings with reference to the photo.  But the duplication of a reference photo in its exactitude is not precisely "ART" (although it is handy as a tool for learning the basics).

Sometimes I will tell the student to stop(!) painting on a painting in progress, not necessarily because it is "finished" but because it communicates. (Often they don't listen to me, because (after all) it's their painting, not mine.)

But I am indebted to Sherry DeReuter for the above painting, an adaptation of a photo we were using.

it is painted with the palette knife, and it could be more "finished", but this painting communicates a mood. The small bits of light orange coming through the clouds are emphasized by the surrounding dark. The photo below is the one students are working from.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Nascar Crash

My semi-abstract painting: "Nascar Crash" (40" x 30") was accepted for inclusion in the August show at the Art League Gallery at Torpedo Factory, Alexandria VA. This is an interesting painting, painted for a show which didn't occur while I was a member of the Max21 group a year or so ago. I have always liked it but didn't have a clear exhibit opportunity until now, the annual "'Scapes — International Landscape show." Art League shows are very competitive. There were over 700 entries for this show. Typically, only about 100 paintings make it in. Juror for the show was Joey Manlapaz. Manlapaz maintains a studio on Capitol Hill and is a faculty member at the Corcoran College of Art and Design.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sunflowers follow the sun

sunflower drawing by Pam Coulter

Yesterday, I settled down to draw a sunflower.

On smooth Bristol, I worked with 2B pencil, first outlining each part and petal, then shading. Finally, I darkened the middle area and several of the leaves with 8B pencil. In the process, I discovered an interesting thing. Sunflowers really do react to the sun, even when cut. My little sunflower looked quite different at the end of the drawing session. Sorry I can't show you the change here, but I didn't photograph it. To me, this is one of the awe-inspiring things about life -- it moves!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Practice, Practice, Practice

I just completed a small painting (12" x 12") of a jar of pears and a pomegranate and it is hanging in the "Bin Gallery" at the Torpedo Factory for the month of July.

I can't emphasize enough the importance of practice to an artist. Musicians realize this, if they are professional. I remember when I was a child the sound of a neighbor who was a violinist in a nationally recognized orchestra practicing hour after hour. The student or wanna be artist who says "I just can't ..." or "I should..." is basically saying, "I don't have enough intention to be a professional." (This applies to me too, of course, and when I rest on my laurels and don't put in the time on practice, I see a decline. It may be slow, but it's the slippery slope!

Practice can include drawing, sketching, painting. You don't always have to get a product. Just moving the paint around, or trying a new color or medium, counts.

In The Way to Happiness, philosopher L. Ron Hubbard says:

"Learning bears fruit when it is applied. Wisdom, of course, can be pursued for its own sake: there is even a kind of beauty in it. But, truth told, one never really knows if he is wise or not until he sees the results of trying to apply it.
"Any activity, skill or profession, ditch-digging, law, engineering, cooking or whatever, no matter how well studied, collides at last with the acid test: can one DO it? And that doing requires practice." — LRH, Chapter 17-3, The Way to Happiness.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Splash and Stream with rapids—Winter were selected for inclusion in the "Corcoran/MPA Student Show" at the Ramp Gallery, McLean, running from June 17 to July 31.I actually think that the resource photo for the stream here pictured was taken during a trip to Martinique (in the Caribbean) but I can't confirm that. The technique includes a "sponged" multicolor underlayer and overpainting with oil using scumbling and glazing.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Painting in Oil or Acrylics
Teacher: Pam Coulter
6 weeks, Sundays 3pm – 6pm
Artspace Herndon
From June 27 to August 8th
(no class July 4; extra makeup class August 15th)
Cloudy Day, Riverbend, by Pam Coulter

Class Description: This class is suitable for all levels of competence. I work individually with each student to help him/her develop skill in the basics of art and to define his own aims as artist. What excites me about art is that there is no limitation on creating. Put pen, paint or crayon to paper and you have created something. From that as a starting point, we can work on professionalism. I will give each student two photos which can be used as resource material. However, if you have a project you would rather work on, you are free to do so. Cost: $125 (no lab fee. each student supplies own supplies. See my recommendations.)
Location: ArtSpace Herndon, 750 Center Street, Herndon VA 20170 703-956-6590
To Register: Contact Pam Coulter Blehert at 703-945-0011 (c) or pam@blehert.com
I can accept check or credit card (through PayPal). Please enroll early to secure your place.

About the teacher: Pam COULTER Blehert paints primarily in oil and acrylics. She has around 400 paintings in private collections and 4 in corporate or government collections. She is a three-time “Best of Show” winner at the Art League of Alexandria monthly juried show at the Torpedo Factory, Alexandria, VA, and multi-year invited member of the “Bin Gallery.” Her paintings have been featured in the Elan Magazine (April 2009) and American Artist magazine (Feb. ‘95) and included in the North Light Book of Acrylic Painting Techniques. She has participated in regional juried shows and had a number of one-person shows. She was represented by Venable-Neslage Galleries (now closed) in Washington, D.C. She has twice had a painting accepted for display in the National Art Club (Salmagundi Club) in New York City. She participates regularly in juried Art League shows at the Torpedo Factory, Alexandria and in Reston Virginia art shows. She teaches art locally at various venues. For more information, visit http://www.blehert.com/gallery/

Friday, June 11, 2010

Putting the life into portraits

A neighbor recently gave me some feedback on my portraiture. I like feedback, particularly when it's positive, but negative feedback is also OK if honest.

He said that he was visiting a mutual artist friend, and, as he walked into the living room, he saw a portrait of the man. He immediately thought, "that reminds me of Pam Coulter's style." Not wanting to be offensive, he asked the artist, "Is that a self-portrait?" "No," said my artist friend, "that was done by Pam Coulter."

My neighbor then said, "I just knew it. You put life into the portrait."

How does one put life into the portrait?

Well, I'll tell you, it's a great deal easier when you are painting from life. Particularly when you have a friendly relationship with the sitter. It's more of a challenge when you are using a photo. There you must "grant life" (so to speak) realizing that the photo is a vehicle for getting to the essential person. And this gets a bit into the spiritual universe. Assume that the photo is a dull image of reality. (In fact, the body is a dull image of reality.) The reality is the person himself (or herself) at their very best and brightest. It's the spirit. And that's what you are set on portraying.

In another instance, I recently did a corporate portrait of Mr. Sam Church Jr., past president of the United Mine Workers of America. His widow did not see the portrait until the unveiling, but emailed me and said:

"I wanted you to know that my son, Nathaniel, and I unveiled your portrait at the UMWA headquarters in Triangle this morning. I was overwhelmed. A close friend of Sam's, Nathan Landow, joined us and immediately commented that it was the "Sammy" we remembered from his tenure as UMWA President.

What a surprise. Not a dry eye in the room! Thank you for the remarkable work. I am so proud that the portrait will hang in the new offices for the UMWA and that Sam's legacy is honored."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Blending with oils

Some of my students have difficulty with blending. here's a tip. For a smooth transition between two colors, both should be wet. Using a large (size 8 is good) bristle brush that is clean and dry, place 1/2 the brush on one color and 1/2 on the other and slowly stroke back and forth to get a smooth transition. You can blend into a dry color as well this way, but using this technique with wet into wet should provide the most satisfactory blend. If this is not clear enough, visit Bill Martin's explanation, which has pictures.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Pouting Child

I am very pleased with this painting of a toddler done as a demo of portrait painting for my class. I thought I would share it with all of you. This is painted in oil on canvas, 20 x 16 (a good size for a headshot like this.)

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Aerial Perspective  

dictionary.com gives the following definition:

a technique of rendering depth or distance in painting by modifying the tone or hue and distinctness of objects perceived as receding from the picture plane, esp. by reducing distinctive local colors and contrasts of light and dark to a uniform light bluish-gray color.
Also called atmospheric perspective.
Where I find a student having difficulty with a landscape painting, it's sometimes due to the use of photographic reference material. "Depth of Field" on the camera is often (if not always) the default setting and many of us use the "point and shoot" technique. The photo prints out "less interesting" than the original scene. 
If you squint your eyes way down and look into the distance, you will often see the effects of atmospheric perspective. The strong contrast and sharp edges in the foreground fade and grey (or blue) to  less distinct colors in the distance. Now, even if you don't particularly see this, you should try it in painting a landscape. For example, in this autumn painting, I emphasized the light blue of the background to "push" the distance into the picture plane. Of course, there are other depth cues in the painting, not least of which is the lane which dwindles to a point at the horizon.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Two paintings on display in the May Reston Community Center show

I have two of my paintings, "Monument Valley" and "Zefferelli's", on display in the annual student-teacher show at the Reston Community Center(RCC) this month.

Pictured here is "Monument Valley". You can see a larger version on my website.
And this is a painting of Zefferelli's restaurant in Herndon.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Who knows -- you may be the next picasso

New York Times reports: A painting that Picasso created in a single day in March 1932 became the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction on Tuesday night.

“Christie’s employees took telephone bids during the eight-minute auction for “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust,” a 1932 Picasso.
In an overflowing salesroom at Christie’s, six bidders vied for “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust,” which depicts the artist’s mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter, reclining naked. When the canvas last changed hands, in 1951, it sold for $19,800. But this time, “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” brought $106.5 million.

Who knows. You could be the next high seller at Christie's. Old Pablo didn't necessarily know he would achieve such fame. He just kept putting it out. Create, create, create!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Art Class

I lead an Oil and Acrylic Painting workshop at the Reston Community Center (Reston VA) every Wednesday from 7-10. Here is a picture of several of my students working on an exercise in portraiture. Portraits of children are especially difficult sometimes because there are no definite lines in the face and the features are still very close together. This photo shows three works in progress from the same reference photo.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Sketch Group

I have found a good life drawing class at the McLean Community Center, McLean Virginia, every Tuesday from 7 - 9:30. It's a good idea for any artist to spend some time each day practicing.
In the nude sketch shown here, there is nothing particularly interesting from a "final painting" viewpoint. The pose is awkward, the model a bit past her prime. But the lighting — ah, the darks and lights. Objects can be rendered in many ways. We learn to draw, often, using a line as the guide to the edge of an object, but the edge is defined (or lost) by differences in tone or contrast. And the objects flow from one to another, and into the surrounding space. Using shading to define the edges and their relation to other spaces gives you a better appreciation of the composition. Now, that is not to say that line should be abandoned. Not at all. Just another way of looking.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Plein Air Painting of Tractor, Riverbend


A couple of weeks ago, I went with two friends down to Riverbend Park where I discovered this lovely little tractor. I roughed it out on site and took a photo. Brought it home and did some finishing touches, edge painted it and put hanging wire on the back. And, voila, it’s ready for the next show. Or for sale! Anyone need a tractor. I will be putting it up on the eBay store.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Yellow Sunflowers

I'm promoting this painting "Sunflowers 2010" on eBay auction. It's oil and 16 x 20, side-painted so it can be hung with or without frame, and wired on the back. Visit my store and see other new work.

I have set the auction starting bid low on this painting for several reasons:

First, setting the starting price lower than the usual sales price makes a game of it.

Secondly, I really do want to find homes for all my "children."

Third, even artists have to eat! haha

I hope you'll go and look. Even if you don't buy, if you put it on your "watch list" it'll stimulate interest. That's a large part of promotion, after all, getting people to pay attention!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Great Falls Painting accepted in the April Art League show

This is a fairly small (11 x 14) Plein Air (outdoor, on-site) painting done in 2006 of Great Falls, Virginia. I personally like the "Japanese" feel of the rock masses. This painting won "First Place" in the annual League of Reston Artists show (Aug 2008) at the US Geological Survey and has now been accepted in the very prestigious Art League of Alexandria show held monthly at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria. It will be on display in the gallery during the entirety of April, 2010. The painting is beautifully framed in a plein air gold frame and is very affordable. (hint hint!)

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

New exhibit - Coulter paintings

During the month of April, 2010, I am exhibiting two paintings in the League of Reston Artists "founders Show" in the Rose gallery, Reston Community Center, Lake Anne Plaza. "Splash," oil, 20 x 24, $600" and "Vale Schoolhouse," oil, 16 x 20, $400. Both paintings were awarded Honorable Mention.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What is Fauve?

Wikipedia describes Fauve as follows: "Les Fauves (French for The Wild Beasts) were a short-lived and loose grouping of early 20th century Modern artists whose works emphasized painterly qualities and strong colour over the representational or realistic values retained by Impressionism. While Fauvism as a style began around 1900 and continued beyond 1910, the movement as such lasted only three years, 1905–1907, and had three exhibitions. The leaders of the movement were Henri Matisse and André Derain."

In 2008, when I was part of a short-lived group called Max-21, I did an experimental self portrait which I titled "Self-Portrait, Fauve." It's pictured here and you can see a larger version of it on my gallery site. I donated it to the Art League of Alexandria for their annual fund-raiser. I was interested to find that, not only did it sell (not surprising) but also received an Honorable Mention prize. (No money, though, alas!)

Monday, March 29, 2010

What to say?

A visual artist can have writer’s block just like a writer. I’ve certainly experienced this. You can reach a point where you think that there’s nothing more to be said. Maybe, at this point, you should be taking in information. Go to a museum or gallery. Luxuriate in the endless creation that is going on. Come home and pick up a brush or pen or pencil. Don’t worry about perfection. Just practice.


Picasso's Blue period painting Le Gourmet (1901)

Article with video at:

The National Gallery

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Don’t neglect grey

When I was a young artist, still feeling my way around the subject of color and composition, I sometimes wondered why my paintings marched across the surface of the canvas and had little “depth.” It took me a while to discover the importance of the neutrals — probably in part because the art teacher was always harping on not letting your painting get “muddy.”

What’s wrong with mud?

Have you ever noticed that really elegant room designs have mostly subdued colors with one or two color accents used judiciously? That’s not to say that bright, busy compositions don’t have their place (and I remember when, as teenagers, we discovered the use by Mexicans of red, pink, yellow and bright green and blue in fabulous swirling skirts).

But mud has its uses.

A landscape that is all green may be particularly hard to paint. Just too much strong green. But choose well — a field with pale brown stubble, a grey lowering sky, a sparkling river going through it with grey rocks and sandy banks — and you may have something more appealing.

Annandale_optBut how do you mix mud?

Remember your basic color wheel. The concepts used to mix mud are that the outer ring of the color wheel consists of the pure hues, the rainbow colors. As you mix the three primaries (or any complementary pair) you approach black. Add an little white and you get quantities of mud: greys, browns, ochres, earth reds….

Try it.

The painting pictured above I did years ago. It’s called “Annandale” and was the view from my dining room window. I think it works partly because of the use of neutrals to relieve the strong greens and blues. (Notice the neutrals I used were browns, “warm neutrals” while the blues and greens are cool colors.)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Ask yourself: what is my purpose as an artist? This is not a serious question. I will allow you to change your answer or come up with several different answers, but do take a moment to think about it. What are you doing as artist? Write it down. Date it. Put it aside where you'll find it later.

I recently met an artist who felt that the all-important thing was finding out what was wanted and producing that. I don’t agree at this point in my career. If I wanted to produce what the public wants, exclusively, I could be a programmer or a short order cook and do it with art.

It’s a little bit like an “almost right item,” an answer that’s close enough to creating what I want that it festers and itches like a hair shirt. This doesn’t mean that I’m right and my friend was wrong. There may be ways that I will develop when I will look back and wonder why I was so stuck on a particular style.

We tend to stick with what we are comfortable, and I have to admit that I’ve never painted a “night scene.” My advice: develop your skill, but try to stretch yourself periodically. And look at what your purpose is as an artist. There may be many answers.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Depth perception

One of the things that makes painting on a flat surface interesting and a challenge is its limitations. You are, in essence, trying to “capture” the attention of the viewer. The illusion of depth is one way to do that. If you can bring the viewer into the canvas and move him visually around the canvas, you have created a sort of depth space. I refer you to my article The Third Dimension for more on depth. The painting I show here, finished this Fall, risks this by a sky just a bit too blue. But I think it works. See if you agree or not and why. It is a view of Monument Valley done from a reference photo. (16 x 20, acrylic, available in my eBay store until April 18th.)


Thursday, March 11, 2010

“Sunday Morning Papers” accepted in Art League of Alexandria show

sunday_papers2Sunday morning Papers is a lovely painting I did many years ago when I caught my mother reading the Sunday papers in a red robe. I liked the composition so well that I did it all in one sitting. When I had finished, my mother, who was herself an artist, came around and looked at it and said “But I don’t have a nose.” “Too bad,” I replied. “It’s finished!” Some years before that, I had painted a self portrait with green hair. When she protested that my hair wasn’t green, I tried to change it and ruined the picture. Some paintings just take on a life of their own! Anyway, here it is, it’s on display at the Torpedo Factory, Alexandria, VA until April 6, 2010 for $1100 (and worth every penny.) You can see a larger version of it in my web gallery.

Recent paintings

I have recently completed several paintings. I’d like to share them with you here. The three paintings which follow are all 16 x 20 and edge painted with wires ready for hanging or framing (if you prefer).

Stone_House_MDStone House, MD was painted from a photo I took on the road up into MD countryside. I love the rolling Virginia and Maryland countryside, which is unfortunately quickly disappearing under flocks of grazing McMansions.
This painting is a bit brighter and warmer in actuality than it looks here. I have a little more to do on the green bottle.
Again, the browser has dimmed down this painting (Sunflowers_2010) a bit. It’s slightly more warm and the purples in the background are a little more lively. This is painted primarily with a size 10 brush (about 1.25 inches wide.)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Vale Schoolhouse Painting

I've been so busy I've been neglecting to promote. Well, no promotion means no one knows about what I've been doing. So here's a little update:

I continue to teach an "Oil and Acrylics workshop" at the Reston Community Center. The painting shown here was a demo of oil painting completed during a recent class. It's a view of a small schoolhouse called "Vale School" on Vale Road in Oakton, Virginia. It is 16 x 20, the sides are painted (so it can be hung without framing) and it already has wiring on the back.

I will be including this painting in may ebay store. http://stores.ebay.com/Pam-Coulter-Art

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Portrait Commission

UMWA_Church_99doneI have been working on a portrait of the former head of the United Mine Workers of America, Sam Church. I am nearly done. The Archivist for the UMWA said that she located me as a portrait artist through my website.

You can see the progress of the portrait on my website. Here is a photo of the nearly complete portrait.

2009 was a particularly busy year for me, with much of the year spent out of town, and I am just getting back to the business of blogging.

If anyone is reading this, please let me know by commenting on this blog. I do plan to continue to post information on color theory as part of the book I’m working on, and I’d like to know if this information is helpful to anyone or if I am just talking to myself. (I don’t actually mind talking to myself. I like myself and I’m a good listener. But I am curious.)