STUDY ABROAD PROGRAM 2012
VIEW STUDENT WORK
"30 things you should practice when painting", Prof. George Dugan 2012
Below is a list of do’s and don'ts presented by Professor Dugan during the study abroad program in Dingle, Ireland. The contents below was cited to painting students on third day of the program. George often performed his teachings and stories in the rich oral tradition of Irish culture. These methods were to be practiced and mastered during the 4 week course. I decided to document George's teaching philosophies, acquired over 50 years of teaching, into what we decided to title: "30 Things You Should Practice When Painting". Jaime Brett Treadwell
1. You must get the drawing correct and resolved it first above all else. This means specifically ......you need to measure throughout the entire development of the painting. But first (later I will talk about the ‘values’, and the ‘edges’) and foremost it is always the DRAWING. Measuring is the only way to construct a drawing. You’ll need to check and to recheck. Often you’ll find that if there is something wrong or feels awkward with the painting , the problem is often within the drawing.
2. Get a 12” piece of string for sighting angles by holding the string up with two hands. Horizontals and diagonal angles can be visualized and measured with this string. Compare constantly (carry this with you at all times) the more you measure the better your drawing will develop. Next, attach a weighted object (like a common ‘nut’) so that when the string is held up dangling in the air it will provide you with a sure vertical line (a plumb). This will be used to sight verticals, and help you to see how things line up or another way of saying it ....it will help you to see relationships.
3. Learn to squint or blur your vision. Close one eye just like you would looking into a microscope or into the sight of a rifle. Squinting distorts details and allows one to see strong contrasts, and this is the best way to begin a painting. This allows you to simplify your subject matter into masses of shapes. (first paint those masses of shapes). As Cezanne once said “everything can be reduced to an sphere, a triangle, or a rectangle”. Forget about representation at this early stage, and just break everything down to geometry.
4. Make a hole in a piece of cardboard or thick white paper smaller. The hole should be a bit smaller than a dime. This will serve as a color finder. Holding the card up and viewing through this hole with one eye closed will help you to isolate a specific color (carry this with you at all times)..........so you can see them(each color) objectively.
5. Squeeze out enough paint on your palette… and load your brush with paint. When learning to paint you need to use paint...lots of it. We do not like misers in life, so why should we like that same characteristics (cheapskates) in painting. In the beginning one has a tendency to be frugal with paint because they are insecure or fearful of making mistakes, (just as we lower our voice when we are not too sure or confident as to what we are saying). A tube of paint only cost about as much as one beer. Give yourself the knowledge and freedom of making mistakes, and scraping them off. Waste paint if the need be.
6. Stand for a minute before you begin and visually study the subject matter before you start the painting. Make decisions about your plan of attack.
7. Brush in one hand, and a cleaning rag in the other......the rag should become as important a tool as the brush.
Constantly cleaning your brush as you develop the painting. Make a brush stroke, then the brush goes into the cleaner, then you wipe the cleaner off the brush... then mix the paint (the color you want), and then make a new stroke, then wipe the brush .....repeat this procedure over and over again so that it becomes very natural to you. After developing this habit you’ll no longer have to think about this process.
8. Always consider what.... you can do vs. what you cannot do,... or.. what it is you want to do verses what it is that you can do. Do not try to challenge yourself with complexity. Learn to paint with simplicity and apply that simplicity early on .....maybe later in your experience painting you can become more complex with your imagery. There is a Fine Art in simplicity (sometimes less is more).
9. Very important! Train yourself to spend 1/ 3rd of your time looking at the subject, and 1/ 3rd of the time actually painting and looking at the painting, and then 1/ 3rd of the time mixing and matching on your palette Train yourself to function with this principle. Do not spend too much time doing just one activity .....a most common failing.
10. Use only 3 to 4 brushes ranging in size. It is amazing how much one brush can function ...learn how to use each brush to its best advantage.
11. When beginning, simply reduce your subject to only using four values. Keep it simple,....four values might be enough.
12. Flat shapes first! Imagine the subject matter in four graphic flat shapes. FLAT! What these would that look like flat. See those shapes like pieces to a jigsaw puzzle. Paint the largest shapes first regardless of where they are located in your design. Often one goes right to the middle....don’t! See the negative shapes as ‘flat’ and those spaces between objects as important as the things being represented. See those flat shapes as graphic designs as in a ‘logo’s’(being flat)!
13. Study edges....and only need to use about 3 types of edges: soft and blend ed.... medium,... and hard edges. Just three types of edges.
14. Work from thin to thick paint, using more medium (thinner) in the beginning, and then let the paint become thicker, easing off of the medium as you approach finish.
15. When Drawing;.....only use straight line construction. Remember to use your string to help you with these angles. You can not measure curves.....so break everything down to angles. First measure the major large angles, and gradually making smaller and smaller angles. I like to think about these angles as hands on a clock ...i.e., one o’clock, or four o’clock. The curves will eventually become curves (organic shapes) almost by themselves. When drawing out your composition use only straight geometric lines to map out your image. The approach is like carving out something on a block of wood...big shapes, and then carved into smaller ones.
16. Hold the brush toward the end of the handle; this will force you to stand back from the easel and the canvas. It’ll take a bit of practice to get used to this. In the end you’ll eventually gain better control using your whole arm instead of just the wrist. Stand back ....imagine the distance that you’d normally look at yourself when standing in front of a mirror.
17. Taking off paint from time to time is as important as putting on. Use a palette knife or a rag wrapped around your finger to wipe off paint from your canvas. Subtraction is as important as addition. That is philosophy ...think about this!
18. Atmospheric perspective: Sharp edges, texture, strong values, details in the foreground; progressively diminishing as things get further away. Soft edges and colors often get cooler as things progressively recede into background. Try this out, even if you are doing a still life...just imagine things that are actually only 10” away, are really a much greater distance This is not a hard fast rule, however it helps to contribute to creating an illusion of space. Go outside and look at distant hills and see how this happens in nature.
19. The guardian angel will reward you with using integrity .....mystical sounding in deed..... but integrity is very important with whatever it is that we do. It is better to fail, and to fail with honesty, then it is to pass by with weak, and mediocre success. We often learn more by failure than by success. The angel will guide you.
20. Back away from the painting periodically. Squint both at your subject matter and your work. A good word to use is objectivity....squinting helps to establish this objectivity. I do not know why it is so hard to get students to squint, but do it, do it, do the squinting!
21. Consider using a red filter to look at the subject. It is hard to reduce colors into values and looking through a filter will help you ....indeed everything will b be dark, middle and light red , but you’ll only see values (monochromatic). This will help you translate you subject matter into values which you should consider first (VALUES). Colors are sometimes hard to understand as values. We often mistake bright colors as light values.
22. Clean your palette often. If you do not clean periodically your painting will eventually get muddy. I consider it healthy to stop and clean your palette at least three times during the course of a painting that takes a few hours.
23. Head down and lose yourself into your work. Concentrate on looking, mixing and matching. Concentration is a meditative thing....it is transcendental, and being so, it is therefore both intelligent, and enjoyable. Learn to find the joy of putting on the paint. Do not judge your painting too often. If you lose yourself into the work will usually come out o.k., maybe even better than expected, ....however....with that being said, you’ll need to back away every now and again and look at your work. It is necessary to attempt to look at your work as if some one else has done it (objectively), this will give you some direction as to what is good or what is bad. Its a kind of a game of being both objective (cool, aloof, and analytical) and then becoming subjective (personal, and intuitive). .
Do not doubt yourself. Revisit your painting in a couple days ...it’ll will help you to see it more clearly. Sometimes holding a mirror up and looking at a painting in reverse will help you to see it more objectively. Study older paintings and learn from them. After all all art study is in the end self study.
24. . One half hour of absolute concentration is more important than long hours of dismantling, or nitpicking over small considerations in a painting.
25. Find two or three artist hero’s. Study everything about their work. Ask yourself how did they proceed, what is underneath their finished painting, what colors were used, or what kind of brushes were used, or what medium, or how thick or thin is their paint. Learn to appreciate their brush work as an art into itself regardless of what they might be represented. Read all about your hero’s.
26. Make paintings not pictures .....understand what that means! Forget all the cliches...just be direct and honest with attempts of what you can and can’t achieve. Like a machine ‘paintings’ are a network of things all functioning purposefully together. RELATIONSHIPS!
27. Do not concern yourself with fancy ideas, profoundness, or new, or even making important statements....do not be pretentious. Just do some plain good observation, and be direct and honest. Good observation and good construction in a painting is indeed an intellectual activity.
28. Use painting to learn how to see.....and not just look! But to see, and to see well what is before you. Attempt to go beyond the material facts of this or that, and see the more significant things beyond the surface.
The beautiful woman falls in love with a homely looking man, and then those careless people say ‘what does she see in him....he is so homely ?’...the woman in love sees much deeper things than the surface. She sees his goodness, his wit, his sparkle of imagination. (whatever else) ...she sees him beyond his mere physical appearance. As the man once said “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” Only few people understand this!
29. Learn to laugh, and enjoy this creative activity. To grow you need to challenge yourself, but not so much that you keep becoming disappointed. Find joy!.
30. Someone once said that the’ bridge that exists,.... connecting all of the arts’ is humor and wit.
Jim Serrett Video: Underpainting (graissaille) Burnt Sienna or Raw Umber and Titaniuim White.
Visual Art Academy : These videos will break down each process of painting.
ARTISTS TO RESEARCH:
James McNeil Whistler
John Singer Sargent
William Merritt Chase
J M Turner
Below is our original version made on site during the 2012 summer program. After the program ended George sent me an updated version posted above. There are a few things here not mentioned above. Enjoy.
26 things you need to know about painting, George Dugan
George wrote a list of do’s and don’ts for his study abroad program in Dingle Ireland. The contents below are what he cited to his students on third day of the program. These methods were to be practiced and mastered during the course of the 4 weeks. This is my attempt to write down what George Dugan’s thoughts on learning to paint. It takes many years to acquire this knowledge… which is the reason I decided to begin to document his words.
1. Number 1 is lost. George used
this section of his list to show students how to make a color finder. We are
not sure where number 1 is or what number 1 said; however, there is a number
1. I think it must have something to do with drawing, specifically measuring.
2. Get a string for sighting angles and attach an object with enough weight to taught the string when dangling in the air. This will be used to sight angles and compare/contrast verticals lines. (carry this with you at all times)
3. Make a hole in a piece of Bristol board or a somewhat thick white paper smaller than a dime. This will be your color finder. (carry this with you at all times)
4. Learn to squint or blur your vision. This allows you to simplify your subject matter into masses of shapes. (first paint those masses of shapes)
5. Squeeze out enough paint on your palette… and load your brush with paint. When learning to paint you need to use paint.
6. Brush in one hand, cleaning rag in the other
7. Visually study the subject matter before you start.
8. Consider what you can do vs. what you cannot do. Do not try to challenge yourself with complexity. Learn to paint simplicity and apply that simplicity to latter more complex imagery.
9. 1/3rd looking, 1/3rd painting, 1/3rd mixing. Efficiency is important when working. Do not spend too much time doing just one activity.
10. Use 3 to 4 brushes ranging in size.
11. When beginning, reduce to only 4 values
12. Use only 3 edges: soft, hard, and in between
13. Work from thin to thick (more medium to less medium), use thicker paint when you are committed to the drawing (design) and color.
14. Flat shapes first! Imagine the subject matter in 4 graphic flat shapes. What would that look like. Paint it!
15. Straight line construction. When drawing out your composition use only straight geometric lines to map out your image.
16. Hold the brush toward the end of the handle; stand back from the easle/canvas (the same distance you look at yourself in a mirror)
17. Taking off paint from time to time is as important as putting on. Use a palette knife or a rag wrapped around your finger to wipe off paint from your canvas.
18. Atmospheric perspective. Sharp edges, texture, strong values, details in the foreground; progressively diminishing as things get further away. Soft edges progressively back.
19. The guardian angel will reward you with using integrity – don’t take it off – it is better to fail with honesty then to pass with mediocre success.
20. Back away from the painting periodically. Squint both at your subject matter and you work.
21. A red filter will help you translate you subject matter into values
22. Clean your palette often. If you do not your painting tends to get muddy.
23. Head down. Concentrate on looking, mixing, and painting. Do not judge your painting too often. Revisit your painting in a couple days to see it more clearly.
24. Find two or three artist hero’s. Study everything about their work. How did they proceed, colors used, brushes, brush work.
25. One half hour of absolute concentration is more important than long hours of dismantling painting.
26. Make paintings not pictures.