secrets of the old masters

I always knew how to draw. What I learned at the New York Academy made me an artist. Here are words to live by.

1. Get the big relationships down first.

2. If it’s not right, do it again. And again. And again.

3. Think big lights, big darks. Details come later. And when they do come, put them in the middle tones.

4. Work across the painting. Do not finish a small area and move into another area–keep working around the painting, bringing it all up at the same time.

5. Your first layers should be thinned with turpentine. Later layers should be thinned with painting medium, 1/3 turps, 1/3 linseed oil, 1/3 damar varnish.

6. If your lights are cool, make your shadows warm. And vice versa.

7. A white canvas is a scary canvas. Tone it with a wash of color and turpentine before you start to paint.

8. Objects that are painted thick and opaque come forward–objects painted thin and transparent recede into the distance.

9. Think about the direction the light is coming from. Then keep it consistent.

10. The center of the canvas is where the eye goes first. Make sure that whatever is there is painted very well.

11. If an object in a painting is rendered beautifully, people will believe the thing next to it is rendered beautifully, too.

12. Yellow is hard to work with. It demands to be looked at.

13. The light areas in the shadows should never be as bright as anything on the light side.The darks on the light side should never be as dark as anything in the shadows.

14. Three is a good number of objects to work with in a composition. So is five. For some reason, four just doesn’t work. I don’t know why.

15. Don’t ever draw anything at the edge of the canvas. It breaks the illusion of depth and comes off the canvas at the viewer.

16. Make your shadows colorful.

17. There are two kind of shadows: the ones with hard edges, called cast shadows, and the ones with soft edges, known as form shadows.

18. Vary your brushwork across the canvas. If some of your painting is lovingly rendered with tiny brushstrokes, then some of it should be open and brushy, for contrast and texture.

19. You can mix every color you will ever need with just yellow ochre, red ochre, burnt umber, raw sienna, ivory black, and flake white.

20. Two in the morning is a bad time to make any kind of a irrevocable decision. This goes for just about everything.

There ya go. Make something great.

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