Weaving Color & Values

by Armand Cabrera

When you plan your color and values carefully you can employ them to great effect with what I call weaving. Just like weaving a cloth, ¬the color and values are woven into the painting with intent creating a strong abstract composition. This is not the same thing as toning your canvas and allowing color to peak through the brush work in a haphazard way. Weaving uses the intelligence and creativity of the painter in service of an idea to introduce structure irrespective of subject. It is a powerful and effective design tool. This is why thumbnails and color comps created before the details and subject are overlaid onto the design are important. You cannot rely on motif and subject only to carry your painting. A good painting must have a good plan for all of the elements.

Below are some examples; I’ve varied the subject matter to show that any type of painting can incorporate the idea of weaving.

 Dean Cornwell
 John Carlson
 Aldro Hibbard
Joaquín Sorolla
 John Singer Sargent
 Emile Carlsen
 Jane Peterson


Armand Cabrera

We’ve talked about practice and tenacity as essential parts of becoming a successful artist. The cornerstone of all good habits though is focus. Focus is the engine that drives all accomplishment. I’ve never met anyone who has succeeded without it. You may not have money or a helper or even talent but if you have focus there is no stopping you.


Focus allows people to take all their energies, resources and time and commit them to a single goal. This is not easy in my experience. People don’t like it when someone is committed to a goal. People will want to distract you and vie for your attention; don’t allow it.

Research studies show that people who multi-task get less done and the quality of their work suffers when compared to people who focus on completing one task at a time and finishing it before moving on to something else.

Tasks like painting, music and mathematics require long periods of focus to achieve successful results. If you want to improve your painting the best way to do so is to cut out distractions and work for as long as you can in an uninterrupted block of time. You don’t have the time you say? That is a matter of priority; you prioritize things everyday so choose to prioritize your painting time.

Here are some ideas for staying on track and keeping your focus.

Be clear about what your goals are decide what you want and how you will achieve it.

Don’t set arbitrary timelines or unrealistic objectives for yourself that is a recipe for failure.

Set a fixed amount of time for practice and study and make sure it is consistent and uninterrupted time. Keep distractions to a minimum and you will accomplish more in the time you do have.

Let the other people in your life know your intentions so they have a chance at supporting your plan.

Don’t victimize others with what you are doing. If you have made prior commitments to family, friends or employers, fulfill those commitments first.

Surround yourself with people who are supportive and respect what you are trying to achieve. It doesn’t matter what level of success you are after.

Always give any chosen task your full attention and best effort.


Henry Ossawa Tanner

By Armand Cabrera

 Henry Ossawa Tanner was born in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania on June 21, 1859. He was the son of a  Bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Tanner’s family settled in Philadelphia when he was five years old. At thirteen while walking in his neighborhood with his father he saw an artist painting. The young Tanner was so fascinated by the process he decided to become an artist. Tanner studied on his own and with some local artists for the next seven years.

In 1880 at the age of twenty one Tanner enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Arts and studied under Thomas Eakins and Thomas Hovenden for the next five years. At the academy Eakins gave Tanner the solid training he needed in drawing and painting and Hovenden taught him to infuse his paintings with emotion and sensitivity and to paint from experience. These two complimentary approaches would serve Tanner well as he matured as an artist.

Tanner left the academy before graduation in hopes of creating a successful photography gallery in Atlanta, GA. The endeavor was short lived and he sold the business and moved to the Blue Ridge of North Carolina where he sold photographs and painted.

In 1890, the Hartzells, his best patrons at the time arranged a show of Tanners work in Cincinnati. When the paintings did not sell the Hartzells bought the entire collection. This sale allowed Tanner to continue his studies in Europe.

In 1891 Tanner arrived in Paris and enrolled in the Academie Julian. Here Tanner studied under Jean Paul Laurens and Jean Joseph Benjamin Constant. In the summers Tanner spent time in Concarneau in Brittany at the American art colony there.

In 1894 Tanner had his painting The Banjo Lesson accepted into the Paris Salon. For the next twenty years he would have a painting accepted every year in the Salon. In 1895 Tanner won an honorable mention from the Salon for his painting, Daniel in the Lion’s Den. In 1897 he was awarded a third class medal from the Salon for The resurrection of Lazarus and the painting was purchased by the French Government. After 1897 Tanners work became more personal and his brushwork and color more post impressionistic. He developed a unique approach that mixed the modernism of the time with a solid academic foundation.

Tanner began to explore more religious themes after his success at the Salon. He infuses a sense of place and great emotional impact in these large canvases. They have a powerful authenticity that is usually lacking in this type of subject matter. His characters are not painted as the safe clichéd blond European bourgeoisie in robes walking through candy colored gardens. Tanner’s scenes are the real world experiencing the bibles miracles and by painting them as such they heighten the sense of the Divine for the viewer.

In 1921 Tanner was awarded the Cross of the Legion of Honor, The highest honor the French government bestows on nonmilitary personnel.

Tanner should be remembered as a great American painter for his accomplishments as an artist but it is also the courage it took for him to achieve his success as an African American man at the end of the nineteenth century that stands out from other painters of that time. Wherever he travelled in America he was controlled by the separate but equal laws of the time, especially in the southern states. The Pennsylvania Academy accepted him on the strength of his work but then delayed his entrance when they found out his race. He constantly suffered racial attacks by other students of his class at the Academy. Joseph Pennell was part of a group of racist students that tied Tanner to his easel and then left him outside in the middle of the street when Tanners ability quickly began to eclipse theirs. He constantly fought to be recognized for his ability alone and to eschew being tied to any type of racial style or aesthetic. His treatment in America was severe enough that he lived most of his life in France.

Henry Ossawa Tanner died in Paris, France in 1937.


Henry Ossawa Tanner
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Rizzoli Publishers 1992


My effort has not only been to put the Biblical Incident into the original setting but at the same time to give the human touch which makes the whole world kin and whichever remains the same while giving truth of detail not to lose sight of important matters- by this I mean that of color and design should be as carefully thought out as if the subject had only these qualities. To me it seems no handicap to have a subject of nobility worthy of ones best continued effort. There is but one thing more important than these qualities, and that is to try and convey to the public the reverence and elevation these subjects impart to you, which is the primary cause of their choice. ~ Henry Ossawa Tanner

Workshop in Great Falls Virginia

I’ve firmed up my teaching schedule for next year and for my first workshop of the new year I’ll be teaching a studio class in Great Falls February 3rd, 4th and 5th in 2012; the hours of the class each day will be 10am to 5pm. I will demo every day for an hour right after the lunch break. The price of this workshop is $425.

Registration is through the Great Falls Foundation for the Arts (GFFFTA)

Right now there are still spaces available. The workshop will focus on honing your skills for landscape still life and portrait painting. I will address drawing, color, and brushwork and good studio practices. We will also discuss what makes a successful painting and what step an artist can take to make sure their work has a focused idea from the start.
Students can work from sketches and photographs and I will discuss how to use each effectively to maximize the success of the final painting. We will also have some still life and cast set ups for those that want to work from life in the studio. The instruction will be targeted toward the individual student’s goals as a painter regardless of level of ability. The class size is strictly limited to 15 students.
This is the only completely studio workshop I am scheduled to teach next year, the other two are plein air landscape workshops. For those of you with a broader focus this is the workshop for you.