Thursday, September 23, 2010

Teaching Realism

There are many degrees of realism in art, from almost photographic depictions to very simplified, abstracted, but still recognizable interpretations.

Most of my students know my work before they take my classes, so they expect to be taught how to paint in a more or less realistic style.
However, style cannot be taught, it has to be conquered by years of work.
What I teach is how to get there:
First, an understanding of color and its three properties: Hue, Value and Chroma, and second, how to truely see and observe: How to use what the right brain senses and what our eyes see, to create on the canvas, through a pattern of shapes and colors, the image exactly the way we want it to look.
Knowing or seeing every detail of the subject is not only unnecessary for the painter, but often undesirable. The left, logical side of the brain interferes in such a way that it blocks the right side, which is more creative. What we know (or think we know) gets in the way of real observation and without real observation there is no true realism.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Revolution and Independence

2010 is the year in which Mexico celebrates 200 years of its Independence form Spain and 100 years since the Revolution.
A lot has changed for the average Mexican citizen in this last century, but less for the indigenous population.
Which may turn out to be good.
The question arises: How much change is desirable, how much modernization can be called progress before it becomes the beginning of the end for the indigenous cultures?
Mexico would not be what it is today if it were not for its history, rich in prehispanic cultures. Mexico must be reminded that it should be proud not only of the temples and pyramids these ancient inhabitants left, but also of the fact, that their descendants are still alive in the indigenous polulation of today. Their old ways of producing arts and crafts are valuable skills to be preserved and, in the long run, this may be more important to the tourism industry of this nation than building more and more developments and golf courses at the beaches, in places where there is no sustainable source of water and where natural eco systems, like mangroves, have to be destroyed to make room for the so called progress.

Friday, August 20, 2010


I love to go plein air painting in Mexico in the rainy season.
Often, the mornings are sunny and very bright, the rains come in the afternoon or evening.
The water refreshes the colors of the land, the sky, the trees. It fills the lakes, charges the air with negative ions and adorns the sky with beautiful clouds.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Morning Light

Early next morning we painted the same mountains from a different vantage point.
The sun was strong already, however, even though the field in the foreground is yellow, a warm tone, all colors, especially the sky and the mountains in the distance looked much cooler than the day before.

Sun gets filtered by the atmoshere it travels through, and early morning moisture in the air accounts for the fact that some of the rays get reflected before they can reach our eyes.

Afternoon Light

I love the hues the sun creates on the landscape during late afternoon hours.

Longer shadows mean more excitement in a painting, as cool shadow colors contrast with those where the heat is still lingering in the the sun drenched landscape.

This scene is in the mountainous region of Mascota, not far form Puerto Vallarta, in western, central Mexico. There are volcanos everywhere.
My painting buddy and I had been searching for a good spot to capture the warm afternoon glow on the mountains, driving up and down a little dirt road, when we happened upon this place. Almost as soon as we had set up, cattle come around the corner, right at us, and they probably wondered what we were doing there. They left soon, of course, but not before we got a few snapshots for future studio paintings.