Bring on the Color: Layer upon Layer


I am all about working in color layers whether it be in strictly painting mode or mixed media mode.  I spent the day going through a lot of old work and pulling out things that could do with a makeover.  I am particularly fond of Canson Art Boards with the Montval watercolor paper surface.  They are strong and take a lot of layers without problems and are relatively inexpensive! How's that for a good recommendation!  I use them a lot for demos in my classes and inevitably end up with several that have a beginning with no place to go.  I just get out my brayer and ink it up with some of my favorite colors and roll on some delicious layers. This works especially well when there is texture on the surface as the color layers grab and skip quite delightfully over the surface leaving behind an interesting new beginning place.

In 2015 I decided to make myself really uncomfortable and start working on large canvases. This is one of those pieces.  The color layers, done with Fluid Acrylics and High Flow Acrylics (Golden Artist Colors, of course) were applied in a wet fashion over the large canvas as it was laying flat on my work table. By wetting only certain areas of the canvas at one time I found I could control a lot of the movement within the composition. The paint will spread right up to the edge of the wet area and stop dead in its track! Since I didn't really want drips, but i did want the colors to co-mingle and interact, this worked perfectly.  The other trick is to always use transparent pigments for these bleeds and puddles.  That way you are guaranteed a "mud free" zone.  Of course there is a lot of editing to be done to create the composition that usually ends up announcing its presence to me if I look at it long enough.

I use color layers in the editing phase of my work as well.  Most often I start with a milky opaque glaze to block out the areas that need to be pushed back allowing the composition to come into focus.  What works best for that is Titan Buff, an off white opaque color, which comes in Fluid, Heavy Body, or High Flow formulations.  You can use it with Acrylic Glazing Liquid (Best studio pal in the world, by the way!) to create a semi-opaque glaze to cut in an around the shapes you want to preserve.  On the other hand, you can switch things up and do the same thing with a dark scrumptious color like Prussian Blue Hue, Dioxazine Puple or a Van Dyke Brown Hue.  For the flower piece above I decided to use Prussian Blue Hue and a tiny bit of Carbon Black to make it really dark. In some areas you will see that there are variations of this deep blue which appear more purple.  Periodically I would throw in some Dioxazine Purple and mix it up giving me more variations.

This is just a little insight into how you can use color layers to create interest in your work.  Don't forget to pick up a copy of my newest book: Acrylic Color Explorations so you can get more handy color tips.  Keep your eyes posted for more interesting posts on color this year as we explore together!

I'd love to hear how you using color layering in your work? Will you share?



Artfully yours, Chris

Finding our worth as artists...


Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. Pablo Picasso


I just got off a Skype call with my grandboys and I can't stop from smiling.  They are always such a delight even through a computer screen.  Almost immediately after we started talking one ran to get something he had painted and of course his younger brother ran to do the same. I was offered painting after painting much to my great delight.  Children's art is so spontaneous and loose, filled with exhuberance and without a trace of insecurity. At least that is true at first.  I always have wondered why it stops, when is it we begin to censor ourselves?  Why we let the opinions of others stop us from drawing, painting, singing out loud, and dancing to the music in public

I met with a group of artists last week who work in an art collective.  We talked about lots of things regarding art and business.  I was struck by the lack of confidence many expressed regarding the worth of their own work and especially the perception that our work has value only if it sells.  There are many factors that influence sales: The ups and downs of the economy, the area we live in, the marketing strategies we employ, our exposure to the community. These are factors that affect our ability to make a sale, they are not factors that decide our personal worth as artists. As history demonstrates time and again, fame comes slowly and late to those who are great. But our value as an artist is separate from the value society at a particular moment places on a piece of our work. Be straight about this point please. 

As creatives we must find a different set of criteria to use to determine our worth besides the price of a painting. We need generate a sense of worth directly from the actions we take, through the actual process of making art.  Let our worth be determined by factors we have control over.  Ask yourself these questions:  Am I investing myself in the process of making art? Have I developed a set of strategies that will encourage interest in my art?  How am I insuring that I continue to grow as an artist? What am I doing to discover more of what I have the potential to do? What am I doing to challenge myself?

As 2015 ends and 2016 is showing us its possibilities let's retrieve the child inside of all of us and embrace our spontaneous artistic selves once again.  Let us put aside criticisms heard or perceived. Make art from your heart and mind and spirit.  Let us challenge ourselves creatively to push beyond the familiar and embrace something unknown.  Let's make marks, splash color, and find what is hidden beyond the obvious.

I hope you will stop by to let me know what you think.

Best wishes to you and yours throughout the holiday season and into the year to come






Artfully yours, Chris

Catching up...and a giveaway!


It seems that this year was a year to get things done. Reaching December feels really good to me.  My new book "Acrylic Color Explorations" is out and available.  Working on a book takes the better part of a year and half. At this time last December I was in Cincinnati at F & W (North Light) shooting the photos for the pages.  In between writing and editing and teaching, I traveled.  All in all I was away from home for 14 weeks in 2015.  I love to travel, don't get me wrong.  When I travel I encounter visual delights that are amazing.  This year we were in Cleveland visiting the Grand boys 4 times.  We love them so much that we decided to buy a condo and spend part of the year beginning in 2016 closer to them.  The condo is on Lake Erie and we look forward to our time there. Kids really keep your creativity in high gear.  My first career was an early childhood educator and I so appreciate that it enabled me to stay in touch with the fluidty of childhood.  Moving quickly, thinking on your feet, being silly, expressing creatively.  We also visited Annapolis, Maryland for the first time.  What a lovely old sea port.  We took a long (almost 4 weeks) road trip up California, through Oregon and onto Washington visiting friends and family, teaching some, and getting to know the Pacific Northwest.  My oldest lives in Seattle and we were there in the glory of spring.  Trees were ablaze with color, the weather was lovely and crisp.  We took some side roads, meandering through places we had never been.  I saw more rhododendrons of various varieties than I could count. VIsiting an Iris farm was a highlight for sure.  These regal flowers are just my favorites.  Our "big" journey was a trip back to Italy to visit Rome, Florence, and Venice.  I was enchanted with Venice, loved every bit of its meandering streets and canals.  Florence is fraught with tourists, but the art is not to be missed. The food was spectacular too.  Rome as always is never-ending in its possibilities.  There is always more to discover. As I write this I'm heading off to Florida to see my family (sister,brother, and cousins, aunt and uncle, etc.), teach a couple of classes, and enjoy the Atlantic Ocean.  By the time I return it will be time for the Rose Parade here in Pasadena and of course that means 2016 is right around the corner.

Before I close, I'd like to ask you to leave a comment on this page about the place you saw or visited this year that made an impression on you.  I'll be picking one of you to send a little gifty to.  Of course, I'd love for you to let me know if you liked my new book as well.  (And please leave a review on Amazon if you liked it!)

Here's to the close of a fruitful and adventuresome 2015 and a artful and fulfilling 2016!





Artfully yours, Chris

Looking beyond the obvious


I love playing with photos in various apps.  It makes me look beyond what I see at first glance to the shapes and spaces surrounding me.  When I layer photos it gets even more interesting. Selecting images to layer requires a different way of seeing as well as a willingness to suppress reality if only for a few moments.  When blossoms become embellishments on pots and fold themselves over the edge I feel like I am living in Wonderland.   As you go out and about use your camera to capture what attracts your eye.  Think about the forms and shapes, the positive and negative spaces, and of course the colors.  What do you take the most pictures of? For me it's flowers  and nature.  Let me hear from you about how you play with photos?

Artfully yours, Chris

Looking beyond the obvious


I love playing with photos in various apps.  It makes me look beyond what I see at first glance to the shapes and spaces surrounding me.  When I layer photos it gets even more interesting. Selecting images to layer requires a different way of seeing as well as a willingness to suppress reality if only for a few moments.  When blossoms become embellishments on pots and fold themselves over the edge I feel like I am living in Wonderland.   As you go out and about use your camera to capture what attracts your eye.  Think about the forms and shapes, the positive and negative spaces, and of course the colors.  What do you take the most pictures of? For me it's flowers  and nature.  Let me hear from you about how you play with photos?

Artfully yours, Chris

Using all our resources...

It began in the garden


I recently took an online class with Pauline Agnew which was totally out of my wheelbox.  It was about painting the face and the figure.  An interesting exercise for me all around as this is not what motivates me.  But I must say that it is good to be uncomfortable at times.  The lack of security with the methods and subject matter really pushed me to think differently about what I see and how I paint.  I'm pretty comfortable with materials and color.  I would definitely say that I'm not shy about it.  But charcoal?  What?  New for me.  Surprisingly I liked it.  The one thing I will take away from this class which I will do regularly if not daily is to use my technology to see less clearly.  Yes, I mean "less" not more.  This class reminded me that seeing clearly is not what I want.  I like when the edges blur and the reality is fuzzy.  I'll never be a realistic painter and I won't give up my colorful sensibilities, but I will grab my apps and render my photos to give the world a different perspective.  

If you don't have apps on your tablet yet for painting and drawing, I'd like to recommend a few that I particularly like. These apps manipulate your photos in unique ways allowing you to create various "painterly" versions of the image.  But don't stop there.  The fun comes when you re-manipulate them and start morphing them into complete abstraction.

 I have an android phone and tablet, so excuse my bias.  But I'm sure that you can find alternatives if not the same ones for your Ipads!

Paper Camera


Infinite Painter


Check them out!  You'll have some great fun.



Artfully yours, Chris

What winter brings...


It's once again December, and as of last night the days will once again begin to get longer and my time in the studio will increase.  I prefer to paint in natural light and when we built the studio space I opted for sky lights.  It was a wonderful decision except for the short days of winter! Don't get me wrong, winter has many virtures.  Winter brings a different light which I love.  Winter brings different ways of seeing as well.  Even here in Southern California we have trees which loose their leaves exposing the beautiful bones of the trunk and branches.  In the garden, the roses stretch to offer their last blooms before they get cut back for a long rest and the oranges and grapefruit trees are heavy with their bounties sweetening up with each drop in temperature.  Each winter we begin to hope for rain to bless this desert we call California.  So far our hopes are being realized and we continue to wish for the heavens to open and bless the land again, and again.  I chose the art for this post because it reminded me of the storm clouds and the winter sky, all promises of replenished resources and a natural time of rest and recovery.  

As for the new year, I'll be gearing up with Julie Prichard soon to develop some new classes for our online family and I've got some workshops planned here in the LA areas this winter and spring.  My work on the book is progressing well and I'm going to meet my deadline ahead of time.  By next winter the book will be in your hands!  But for the moment I'm going to stop and enjoy some family time and replenish myself. With all the hustle and bustle of the winter holidays, I wish for you that you too have time to replenish your creative resources this winter.

Artfully yours, Chris

Reflections on change

Chrisfall 455These cast shadows are such a great metaphor for life transitions.  As long as you don't move the objects casting the shadows they will appear in some form everyday.  That's reassuring, isn't it?  Or is it really? For the last nine years I have been a part of the Working Artist Team for Golden Artist Colors, Inc. and with that have conducted countless lectures and presentations to diverse groups.  I have met so many enthusiastic and inquisitive artists and artists in the making along the way. I have made wonderful friends, had students who became colleagues and then friends, it's been a wonderful journey. Thank you Golden Artist Colors, Inc. for your trust and confidence these past 9 years. I have been preparing myself to transition out of the Working Artist Program for more than a year.  This month I gave my last formal lecture on acrylics.  The deed is done.  It's time to move the furniture so that it will cast new shadows.  

What does that mean to any of you? I think you will hardly even notice the change!  I am still going to paint and teach and write and offer classes with my pal, Julie Prichard, online. You just won't get anymore free paint!  My hat will change from Working Artist to Artist Educator.  So I'm still around to tempt you to try new things and encourage you to keep painting. And I will!

This transition means a lot of different things to me. It means letting go of a few things and having the time to grab on to others.  The biggest thing it means is that I  now stand on my own as an artist able to express and interpret, explore and process as I will. It means that I will have a bit more time to pursue projects that I want and to travel a bit (hopefully).  I am excited to see how these new shadows will reveal themselves throughout the days ahead.  I promise to keep you posted.

I hope you will share your life transitions with me as we move forward.

Artfully yours, Chris

Are you done? Not yet.


There is that eternal question?  Am I done? I usually answer one of two ways.  Either "not yet" or "for now."  What is the difference?  If I am at the "not yet" place I am still thinking about the piece, it feels like it hasn't finished speaking to me.  That's a signal to me to wait and ponder.  Ruminate.  A wonderful word.  Think long and deeply.  Some changes are usually in store, but they will eventually reveal themselves. Then there is that other answer:  "For now."  That answer means a lot of things.  It means I am accepting the painting as it is at this moment, but leaving open the possibility that it could evolve either subtly or significantly in the future.  Let me assure you that usually that means there are drastic transformations in store for a painting!  Why do I allow myself this reservation?  Actually it is a wonderful way to freely experiment with complete abandon, try new techniques or just go where I have never been.  

Either way, the goal is to keep painting!

So tell me.  What do you answer when someone says: "Are you done?"  I would love to know!

Artfully yours, Chris

Art & Teaching: Keeping the balance

IMG_8052View from the studio, 2014

I have probably shared this before, but it bears saying again.  I am a teaching artist.  My formal training is in Education and for more than 30 years it was my profession.  Art was my escape and was woven in and out of my years in so many ways.  I cannot separate my educator self from my creative self at all anymore.  Every so often I get a request from someone to teach them how to paint like I paint.  I know they want the step by step so it can look like mine.  I can't do what they want as it goes so against what I feel teaching is all about.  Let me teach you process, share with you how to think through a problem, assist you in refining your technique.  That's what I want to give back.  I am self-taught through and through.  With the exception of one Design 101 class back in 1967, what I know about art has come through reading and doing.  My technical training with Golden Artist Colors, Inc. has been invaluable to me these past 8 years and I am ever so greatful to have been a part of the Working Artist Team.  It pushed me to try things and to experiment.  Experimentation and out of the box thinking are two things I cannot say enough about.  Take risks with your process, play and discover.  

My own personal artistic style is a reflection of who I am and as I grow and change so does my art.  I look back at my first book for Design Originals, Altered Surfaces and can't believe how much my work has changed.  But the essential part, the teaching part, has not.  It is still sound information that I can be proud of.  This summer I released 4 new DVD's through Artist Network/North Light and I am very proud of the content. Putting the techniques to work is your job!  Use them to expand your own repetoire of techniques and learn something new.  As a teacher I feel honored to hear from so many of you who write about what they have learned from one of my books or from watching a download of a DVD.  To hear someone say "I have been painting along with you!" is music to my ears.

I want for all of you what I have.  The joy of making art, good materials and sound information. I wish for you that you are experimental, that you occasionally get frustrated, and that you make a lot of mistakes!  Those are the keys to growth.  Whether you paint alone, in a group, or take an online class, learn to be critical of your own work.  Step back and examine what is working and what is not.  Ask yourself the hard questions.  

I would love for you to share a lesson you have learned about art fom someone who taught you.  Let me hear from you.



Artfully yours, Chris

Playing loosely, looking closely...

IMG_8734Whenever I teach I am always asked if I have a plan or if I know what I am going to paint.  The answer is generally no to both of those questions.  My plan if there is one is first to play with paint.  Play with the properties of paint by applying it on the surface dry or with mediums, play with it on a wet surface, or wet it after I apply it.  The magic starts to happen when I introduce a second color and watch the paint interact, mingle and fuse with the color I applied before.  This process continues as I move the paint about using various tools or techniques.  I can stop or continue at any point.  That is the joy in the process.  When I do stop I wait for things to dry.  I take photos of the surface and look at them on my monitor close up.  What is there awaiting discovery.  It takes me back to sitting outside as a child looking at clouds searching for what could be seen.  It takes relinquishing control and handing it over to your intuitive self.  Learn to look closely and from every direction.  Turn it left, right, upside down.  Something is there waiting.  I'm posting different views from this piece I am working on.  It is Fluid acrylics and High Flow acrylics on Watercolor paper, mostly wet into wet after the first lines which were dry.  It's strong and bold, but there is magic here.  Tell me will you?  What do you see?


and what about here??


Artfully yours, Chris