Friday, June 25, 2010


This is a painting I did in Sacramento a few months ago.  I thought I would stick it in this post to give my friends in the up coming workshops a look.  I love painting from life--it's so easy compared to painting from reference materials like Photoshop or straight projection.  It takes real brains and talent to paint from photos--painting from life feels like cheating--its all right there in front of you--you don't have to use your imagination very much---boring!  If you really want to improve your drawing skills--then project and trace very carefully right onto your canvas or learn to manupulate Photoshop and a digital projector--why sweat drawing!  If you do this a few thousand times--I promise you will learn to draw as accurately as needed for representational oil painting.  Or you may want to just draw out of your head and forget this step--but that takes REAL talent.  I always have to look at something before I can paint it--I have limited visual imagination--I am stuck!

The real determinate in drawing skill is taste--not drawing from life.  If you know how something SHOULD look in its painted form--then you will draw or paint it WITH THE POSSIBILITIES THAT PAINT OFFERS--according to your personal artistic vision.  How do you learn how something should look in its painted form?--stare at great paintings for two thousand hours, then love the creation, then cover three football fields worth of canvas--bingo--YOU HAVE IT!  Staring at others solutions may even be a hinderance--I just love doing it since I am so limited--I just try to knock off others who have gone before.

All of this academic stuff about drawing is a bunch of horse dung--except for those who own these academies that discourage creativity.  Over emphasis on drawing is designed to distance humans from artistic expression--drawing or rendering is the enemy.  Lines, or marks as I prefer to call them, are only temporary designations that indicate where masses should be initially laid in. The bringing together of colorful masses in the correct value and temperature is the ticket--lines separate masses artificially and prevent the merging of shape, value, and color--avoid over rendering and develop your personal sense of how something can be expressed in paint using your imaginaton--maybe paint from your dreams and memories like the Nabis.  They are perceived by some critics as the greatest colorists--their approach was unrestricted by the academics of their time.

You may choose to render the hell out of everything, but don't tell me that you have to draw well before you can paint well--if you have a sense of how something looks to you--then you will put the shapes, values, color and mass in the right place--but this takes conviction and a fearlessness that is rare indeed--Dan McCaw is the only one out there I know of who practices this approach.

If the value, color and shape of the mass are on target--then a general placement of them will suffice--it is value and color that give the painting the snap and the authority not accurate rendering--always leave room for the viewer's imagination to wander--don't insult the viewer by giving too much information--by rendering every detail to death.

The logic of value and color in a painting equals the EFFECT OF LIGHT.  Painting value and light with distinction and taste will make you rich and famous--I promise.  Only two or three every half century achieve this-- so have fun! All of nature provides a point of departure for painting light--LIGHT EXPRESSED BY COLOR AND VALUE --this is what I am chasing in my own work and what I try to teach when given the opportunity.  See ya down the road--Don

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pithy Aphorisms

Gotta tell ya the following:

1. I checked my mouse traps this morning and found two new victims.  This after a three week delay because my wife, Janey, loves animals so much that she couldn't stand the thought of killing the little things.  I tried to convince her that sharing our forest home with these critters is a loosing proposition.  She finally caved in after one of these guys started eating her fine wicker chair--you could hear the thing crunching all night long.  We have a pet semitary under the redwoods where two dogs and three cats are memorialized with home made custom monuments--yes we love animals.  Albert Einstein would not kill mosquitos because of his profound respect for all living--I AM NO EINTSTEIN !

2.  I drive so slow that I create back ups on our country roads.  I always pull over and let those in a hurry pass--but I get pissed when I don't get the "thank you" wave.  Most men will acknowledge my kindness, but women seldom do--this morning a women gave me the big "thank you"--A FIRST IN MY LIFE!

3.  When I want to fall asleep I read the book of Leviticus in the Bible--its boring as hell and puts me to sleep every time.  This habit has changed at long last.  I now read how to paint books by famous authors like Richard Schmid.  IT REALLY WORKS!

4.  I find that if I postpone commissions I get guilty.  If I get guilty I paint better.  The more behind the work--the better the result.  Conclusion:  put off commission work so that you produce a better result.  THE CLIENT WILL LOVE YOU FOR THE EFFORT!

5.  If your paintings don't sell--then give the damn things away.  It helps to be on social security when you do this.  We have all made too much money for our efforts over the years anyway.  IT IS TIME TO GIVE BACK!

6.  Why is representational painting in the modern era so inferior to that of 130 years ago?  We know more about the science of oil painting, about the physics of light, about design, about technique--we have better equipment, better materials, more information about everything--what's up?  Here comes the answer:  In 1880 the brightest and best were still seeking careers in oil painting.  Today the brightest and best seek careers in film,  in cyber technnology, in science and industry.  Its a matter of demographics--THE REALLY SMART ONES DON'T PAINT ANYMORE--SORRY!  OK--I know you are smart, but you are the exception.

7.  Why then do people still paint at all?  The answer:  ITS THERAPUTIC!

8.  Why do some still make big bucks selling representational oil paintings.  The answer:  Because they are rendered to the knats ass,  and there is a boat load of bucks out there for paintings that look like photographs.  This is an expression of taste that you may or may not think is lacking in oil painting purchases today. You have to read Robert Hughs for a fuller answer--see "Nothing if Not Critical"--the final essay on Art and Money.  It has to do with the amount of money flying around in the modern era--especially money as we call it in California--mostly gas and oil money.  O BOY,  YOU'VE DONE IT NOW!


10.  And Finally (thank God)--what would I do if I made 5 million on one painting?  I would stop painting altogether, hire a golf coach, hire a masseuse, hire an organic cook, move to Majorca and study Bobby Fisher on how to beat the computer at chess.  FOR SURE !

Monday, June 14, 2010

See You In Maine on July 16 through 18

Napa Valley Artist Don Hatfield to Hold Painting Workshop in Lewiston

Artist, Don Hatfield, will teach a 3-day oil painting workshop at L/A Arts' DownStage on July 16-17-18. It will involve two days of figure painting and one day of portraiture, with optional still life studies set up. Cost for all three days is $330, but 2-day and 1-day slots are also available.

Many consider Hatfield one of the most innovative impressionists of our time, whose style of painting softly blends the figures of realism with the gentle touch of classic impressionism. His masterful use of color and light draw the viewer to his intimate serene scenes. Although his work is traditional in concept and technique, his works portray strong quiet emotions through subtle but rich textures, and with warm and inviting hues.

Having first been a pastel artist, Hatfield’s painting technique involves sculpting form with gray tones and adding pronounced color over. His ability and results are amazing. It is no wonder that he has collectors from Asia, Europe and the US. His works have been on covers of magazines and some have even appeared in films.

As an individual, Hatfield is comical and animated. He is an experienced teacher, holding ongoing classes in and near his Napa Valley home. He works with students at whatever level they are at and gives individual attention as needed.   Though laid back in his teaching method, he is very serious about painting. He has a wealth of knowledge and is committed to sharing it. Video clips of his teaching, from his newest DVD Fantasy Portraits In the Garden, can be viewed on his website: Images of his artwork and an on-going blog  that reveals a sense of his personality and style are on Don’s website as well.

Hatfield will be visiting Maine for the first time this summer, creating a unique opportunity for local artists and students of art to study and paint with a talented West Coast artist who has over 40 years of experiences to share.  The workshop will be held at The Downstage at L/A Arts, # 5 Canal St. Alley, Lewiston (just off the first block of Pine Street). Friday and Sunday will focus on portraiture and Saturday will focus on figure in a costume.  Register on line at . For more information contact L/A Arts, (207) 782-7228.

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contact info:
Cheri Donahue, Marketing Director
L/A Arts  221 Lisbon Street  Lewiston, Maine 04240  ph. (207) 782-7228  fax (207) 782-8192 

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Portrait Refurbishment

This is a redo of the portrait I posted formerly (see May 16, Only One Spirit below).  I knew the old one was not right, but I tried to convince myself that it was--the result--three extra weeks of misery before I finally destroyed it--stretcher bars and all--in the dumpster.  This can happen when we get in a hurry, are careless, and are not present in the process--so be mindful.  It really felt good to take the razor blade to the first attempt.  Please don't tell me you like the first one better--or course you don't know the client, so--you have nothing to compare it to--but trust me--the second one is far superior.  Now I can ship it off two months past due.  My wife actually hates Bob, the client, and will be glad to see him go--I exhausted her with critique requests, and she doesn't like to hear her christian holy man turn the air blue with his extended cuss word vocubulary.  I was so out of practice with portraiture--but not now!  I'll have to wait for the old farts from New York to retire before I make my big national push.  What's that company, Portraits Inc. or something?  There are even these big parties where all the portrait painters gather to check out the competition and agents try to gain control of the willing --sounds like art hell to me.  I do enjoy the exactitude that portraits require.  If you are out of touch with values it will really show up in the effort.  Anyway, if I can paint your house cat or your ex-wife's attorney--let me know.  Sergei Bongart used to call portraiture the second oldest profession--I wonder what he meant.