Left in the Dark by Wilson Bickford


I recently conducted an oil painting class which focused on a night-time seascape theme. Rendering night scenes is always challenging, as colors diminish and things take on a more monochromatic feel. The issue is to get the scene dark enough to convey that particular time of the day, but not so dark that it literally becomes lost. In reality, some nights are pitch black and some are still quite light. It takes a lot of "judging" of the values to pull it off convincingly.

I find it easier to establish my mid-tone first and I use that value to "tone" my whole canvas. This sets the stage for the lights and darks I will apply which will straddle either side of that mid-tone.

Painting is all about value contrasts and I make sure that I still get a broad range. (Note the lightness of the moon and sea foam compared to the rocks.) However, the middle values are much "closer" together and vary only slightly. This is the key to capturing that night-time mood.

I have found that these "moonlit" themes seem to strike a certain chord with viewers and consequently, they are good sellers. By a large margin, most landscapes are portrayed during the daytime hours, so perhaps a moonscape's appeal lies in the fact that it's different. If you're strictly a "daytime" painter, don't be afraid to catch "full moon fever" and try one of these.

Just watch out for werewolves!

April Artist of the Month - Andrea del Rio


Upon selection for the pieces in my art portfolio, I chose artwork that best demonstrated my artistic abilities. With a concentration on form, content and technique, my creativity lies in making the viewer connect with my work. Some of my pieces like "Lets Talk," a genre scene, make one wonder about the action. They all represent me in different ways and like Rembrandt, I choose self-portraits to convey my inner most feelings. The different emotions give them a unique feeling and characteristic. I have used interesting concepts to play up on, so that absolutely everyone feels some sort of relation to each piece.

When others see my art work I hope that their evaluations are positive and constructive. I want anyone who sees my work to connect to the piece, that it makes them remember of something that they have been through or felt. In order to reach this goal I created paintings about daily life, ordinary chores, and small dilemmas; because in all of that, there is always room for a laugh or smile. I really like when others admire what I enjoy doing, it inspires me even more and pushes me to work harder. It is also very good to know what I need to improve on as it extends my mediums and makes my art more versatile. I have learned to accept each comment and critic, as they make me grow and become stronger for the outside world.

As a vital part of my life, art has an important role in every decision I make. Whether it is where to place something, or enter a contest, my skills are always turned on. That means it is something which constantly runs through my mind, and if it didn’t I would not have a purpose, wouldn't feel complete, or exited about much. Art and its complex and ever changing history has found within me a person with new goals and a different perspective.

Thank you for your consideration.
Andrea Del Rio



Preparing for Surtex by Valerie (Valry) Drake

Last time I told you about my upcoming trip to Surtex. This week I thought I would share some of the computer / Photoshop® preparation of my artwork for the show.
I am working on two collections at a time. One is on the easel and one is in the computer. As it happens, both of the collections I am working on at this time are painted in oils so I need to allow dry time before scanning them. All of my art work is scanned at 400 dpi and saved as JPEG documents. I take pieces that are too large for my scanner to a copy shop such as Kinkos. (Their default scanning is only about $1 but saves the document as a PDF, which won't work. Converting the PDF to a JPEG also changes the price. Last time I was there it was $6 for the first, $5 for the second, and $1 for additional scans. Last time I was there I took three pieces; next time I will carry a larger batch to take advantage of the $1 rate.)

Photoshop® is the industry standard for graphics editing and I have CS4. In Photoshop I start by creating a new document. Notice that I keep the 400 DPI and use a transparent background. I also start with a large canvas, as large as my largest painting.

Next, from the file menu I choose place which allows me to insert my scanned art piece and then press enter to get the thing in there. As you can see, it needs a LOT of work. I also have to go into the layer menu and select rastorize and then click on smart object. (No, I don't know what rastorize means, to me it means, "convert to a format that I can edit.")

Now I will create a second layer and put it underneath the layer with my artwork. This is a temporary layer so that I can easily see what I am doing. I use the paint bucket and fill the temporary layer with white or black - actually I alternate between the two colors so that I check everything VERY carefully. Then I move back to the layer with the artwork, select the background and delete it. Now you can see that black bottom layer showing through and CLEARLY showing me what I still need to delete.

I will painstakingly clean up ALL the edges and erase EVERY little white dot. Then I switch the background layer to white and make sure there are no dots showing up there. Then I delete the bottom layer and save the document as a PNG and also save the Photoshop document. Each element of the collection (3 main elements, such as the one above, and 7 minor elements) goes through this process. Then the elements are combined in various ways.

Finally we see how 2 major elements can be combined with a temporary background dropped in. The gizmo and the baby are separate paintings and the originals are both the same size. As you can see, I reduced the baby and positioned him with part of the gizmo painting overlapping on the baby.

Yep, it takes a LOT of time and patience.

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