The Civil War and American Art


 Armand Cabrera



 The Civil War and American Art Exhibition which is on view at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC through April 28th, 2013 has collected a number of Hudson River school landscapes, genre paintings with war themes and albumen prints taken during the war itself. The National Portrait Gallery admission  is free.
It is a powerful show, and has some of my favorite paintings by Church and Bierstadt as well as paintings by talented artists like Sanford Robinson Gifford, Conrad Wise Chapman, Winslow Homer, Martin Johnson Heade, Eastman Johnson, John Frederick Kensett, and other genre and landscape painters of the period as well as photographers Alexander Gardner, George Bernard Timothy O’Sullivan and John Reekie.
The large paintings are Church’s Cotopaxi 48×85 inches, The Icebergs 64 1/2 × 112 1/2 inches, Aurora Borealis 56 x 83 1/2 inches and Rainy Season in the Tropics 56 1/4 x 84 1/4 inches. Bierstadt’s large Painting Looking Down Yosemite Valley California 1865 64 1/2 x 96 1/2 inches and Thomas Moran’s Slave Hunt in the Dismal Swamp Virginia 34 x 44 inches. These major works are strung throughout the show and many fine medium and small works carrying the bulk of the display.


Here is a Link to the Show where you can click on the thumbnails and see larger images of the works on display but the internet is no substitute for the real experience.
The show Travels to the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York starting May 21st to September 2nd  2013. You can also buy a hard or soft cover catalog for the show.

Armand Cabrera Workshop 2013

Armand Cabrera

I will be teaching a mix of outdoor and studio alla prima painting in Athens, Georgia this spring. The workshop will start Tuesday night April 16thwith a painting demonstration by me at the Lyndon House Arts Center. I will start and finish a large painting and talk about what to expect in the class. The complete dates are  April 16th to 20th 2013.

We will focus on the individual needs of each student to help them improve their work and take it to the next level, whatever their goals are as a painter.  We already have some great venues picked out and a perfect studio space for inclement weather if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate with us.

 The class is designed for oil and acrylic painters.  Learn to make better statements with your art and develop your unique artistic voice to the best of its ability.

For a materials list and more class information go here
or go to and follow the links to the workshop page

Mixing Greens part 1

By Armand Cabrera

People always ask me about mixing greens for my landscape paintings. Some people have trouble with the color green. The biggest problems are inappropriate saturation and hue.  Many times artists get their green too blue shifted for landscape painting. There is this old myth that green paintings don’t sell. I know this to be untrue because I sell them all the time. I would change the old myth to this “bad green paintings don’t sell. “

Here are some things you can do to keep your greens lively and believable.

Mix your greens from yellow and blue and don’t squeeze it from a tube. This is the fastest way to learn how to mix pleasing greens especially if you use a limited palette like the three primary colors or a warm and cool of each primary only. These palette restrictions will force you to make choices about how to depict the greens you see in the landscape. What you will quickly discover is how to make colors that appear green relative to your other color choices in the painting.

Think of green as a color key for the whole landscape that way you will paint variations on a theme of green with some being darker, some  lighter, and some shifted all along the spectrum of color but still effectively green. Side by side they would appear more red, yellow, blue, orange, or purple in comparison to each other but when isolated way from other greens they would still retain their green hue relative to other hues.

Look for opportunities to introduce color harmonies into your painting in the appropriate places to help add interest to your greens.  If used in a thoughtful, deliberate way this can be very effective and increase the sense of complexity to your color masses.
All images by Armand Cabrera

Mixing Greens part 2


Armand Cabrera

I’m going to continue with my article on greens and break down some ways of approaching mixes for green. People wrote to me asking about mixing and that they had problems with getting the appropriate green for their paintings.

Let’s talk about some broad ideas first that apply to all color not just green. Everything is relative to the colors and values next to it. When painting outdoor scenes you have to limit the range of color and value to what is available to you in paint. You can’t copy colors and values natures has many more at its disposal than pigment does.

 Knowing this, you have to get used to thinking about translating what you see not copying it. You must use  a key for your painting. Just like a key in music, a key in painting allows you to structure the color and value of your painting to conform to certain restrictions; these restrictions are part of the basic design. This applies to green as a hue and how it will interact in the larger scheme of the painting.  The local colors of all the objects must be shifted to conform to the effect of the light.

When we key the painting for color what we are talking about is limiting its range for color in the lights and the shadows. We are designing the colors to fit into a believable limited arrangement of hues that represents the scene we are trying to depict.

Outdoors you have two great sources of light, sunlight and sky light.  The sunlight falls in parallel rays affecting everything in its path. Sky light which is weaker than sunlight, affects everything not directly affected by the sun. Sunlight is usually considered warmer than sky light and so shadows have a relatively bluish cast to all the colors within the shadow area when compared to those same colors in sunlight.

How does this affect green? The strength of the color of the sunlight shifts all of the colors including green. Sometimes greens appear olive or even orange to the eye even though we know them to be green. By observing the local color relationships of the scene we can see how the sunlight affects those local colors and key them accordingly. All the aspects of color change under these shifts not just the hue but also the chroma and value. To mix your green properly you have to paint the color as it appears not force the green hue into the key when it doesn’t belong there.

When I mix a color I always look at its relative components to the colors around it. I always start with its value and where its value fits in the painting as a whole. My next step is to determine its hue. When mixing a particular green I compare its hue to the other hues around it to determine how it relates in the spectrum. Is it more blue, red or yellow than surrounding hues?

Even if those surrounding hues are other greens, each green will appear slightly more blue, red or yellow than the others.  If that difference is important enough for me to single out for its inclusion then I use it to help get me to the proper color note. The last thing I check my mix for is its proper chroma, its relative grayness to the colors around it. If all of these steps are completed properly I move one step closer to finishing the painting.

 This is why I say paintings are ruined at the start by not getting that first correct note down. Just like music if you start on the wrong note it throws every other note into disarray and the painting fails because of it. 

Each correct color note helps me solve the next notes until the painting is completed to my satisfaction.

 All paintings by Armand Cabrera