Take A Hike by Wilson Bickford

If you want to get your creative juices flowing, sometimes you just have to get out into Mother Nature's domain. Winters here in northern NY can be quite brutal, with minus 20s and 30s pretty common in January and February. There are acres and acres of meadows and thick woods behind my home which I routinely patrol on my snowshoes. Although this is not my land, the owner does not mind me trekking around out there, so I take advantage of that (and I am grateful for it).

I like to snowshoe for several reasons:
* Just to make the best of a bad situation (let's just say that Winter isn't my favorite season)
* To get some fresh air and exercise
* And to get inspiration / photos for my artwork

While snow can be bothersome, as far as the shoveling, plowing and snowblowing, it is also quite beautiful and is one of my favorite landscape themes. This morning was crisp (8 degrees above), clear and bright, so I grabbed my camera and snowshoes and headed out. It was just after 8am when I hit the woods and the sun was still rising and filtering through the trees. I loved the play of light and shadows. More specifically, the warm lights and the cool, blue shadows. If you're looking for a broad range of color temperatures in your painting, this will do it. Such beautiful contrast!

I'm sure these photos will ultimately find their way onto my canvas. It's hard for me to imagine not trying to capture this tranquility. The warm and cool colors, the contrast of the dark silhouetted trees against the bright sun light bursting through............... how can one not be inspired?

So, what I want to say to you is, "GO TAKE A HIKE!!" You may not have snow where you are, so go stroll the beach, take a walk through the city streets, or meander along a wooded trail.

It'll be great for your mind, body and artistic soul!

Devil & Angel

The Fountain Marcel Duchamp 1917

Prompt: Is this Art?

JOE DiGIULIO: One can argue about the entry of Duchamp's "The Fountain" into a 1917 exhibition as to whether it should be considered Art. As a 3 dimensional sculptor, I have always sought for the harmony between form and function and within this criteria, I would have to say "No" it is not considered as such due to it not being functional in its state within a museum setting.
By turning the piece on it side, The Fountain, has resembled the imagery of a sitting Buddha or a veiled Madonna figure with its sweeping downward curves. From that standpoint I would consider it as Art. So that's one for and one against. I would also, and most importantly, consider whether the piece elicits a response from the observer. Although the Fountain was hidden from view in the exhibition one would have to believe that the public response to the piece's inclusion would have been one of shock. With this in mind, I would contend that YES it is Art in the fact that it caused an emotional response from the observer. Whether good or bad, if the observer is emotionally drawn to the piece, then it is a successful piece of Art. Found art or fabricated from the artist's hand, when displayed within the museum setting the final work stands to be observed and judged by the eye of the beholder. It is from there that beauty is conceived.

SHARON DiGIULIO: NO! This is not art. This is some crazy person's attempt to get a reaction from the art community. I believe Duchamp was using this as a futile attempt to cause a stir. Now, sometimes the art community needs a little stir, but this urinal is more of a disaster in my opinion. Picking something up out of the trash or purchasing someone else's creation (or design or manufactured item) and calling it your own or calling it art is ridiculous! I do, however, believe that when you do use "found objects" in an art piece, you can call it your own when you alter or manipulate it or incorporate other items with it and present it in a new way or tell a story, that it does eventually become art. But when you have a urinal and sign the manufacturer's name to it and submit it for public display, that's a little weird in my opinion.

WINTER STREAM Project Lesson in Oils by Wilson Bickford

I thought I'd share some insights as to my thought processes and techniques with this painting.
This was created just recently and I took step-by-step photos along the way to highlight certain points. Although this is considered an Oil painting, I did start with some Acrylic gessos for the underpainting; a blue-gray for the snow and black for the stream. The idea is to let the underpainting show through to influence the top layer of Oil Colors.

Photo #1 - The blue and black Acrylics were applied using a disposable foam brush (hardware -store variety). When that was completely dry, I scrubbed a thin coat of LIQUIN Winsor & Newton Oil Color Medium over the entire canvas to ease the application of the Oils and to facilitate blending. Any clear Oil medium would suffice.

Photo #2 - Using a Fan brush, I used small amounts of Van Dyke Brown, Burnt Sienna, Sap Green and Ultramarine Blue to scrub in a "mottled" suggestion of deep woods. I purposely kept the bottom area darker to help convey the feeling of deeper shadows in the undergrowth. Notice that I did not cover up all of the Acrylic undertone and it is peeking through here and there. the Oils were applied very thinly and scrubbed in.

Photo #3 - Tree trunks were added using Van Dyke Brown on a 3/8" Flat brush. Evergreen branches were rendered with a Fan brush and varying mixtures of Sap Green, Ultramarine Blues and Van Dyke Brown. Snow on the branches was indicated with Blue and White on the Fan brush, ultimately building to pure Titanium White for the lightest highlights which were placed more centrally on the canvas.

Photo #4 - Using my background Blues, Greens and Browns, I painted the reflection colors into the water. This was with the Flat brush. Note that the brightest glow in the water is nearer the center as it will be an important part of the focal point, or "center of interest." I used Titanium White for this area. I also started defining the snow shadows and lay of the land at this phase, again saving the pure whites for the middle area of the canvas.

Photo #5 - More snow highlights and some grasses poking through were added. I used the Browns on the Fan brush for the grass stubble, then added more definition (especially nearer the foreground) using a Script Liner. As an adjustment, I brightened the glint of light in the water using more Titanium White, which I felt gave it some extra oomph. Lastly, I used some of my Blues and White on the Script Liner to create the snow-covered rocks in the stream.

There you have it! Although there are many different ways to execute a painting, this is an approach I use quite often. By using the Acrylic underneath, I find that I can use less paint over-all in the Oil stage, which keeps me from getting bogged down on a slippery, thick canvas.
I choose my underpainting colors according to my subject. For example, I might use a Yellow or a Red for a sunset scene. Give it a try!

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