Armand Cabrera

Outcome is more important than Process
Many people delude themselves into believing that a painting is successful because they’ve worked so hard on it. We have all heard the sad tales of the weeks, even months, of work that have gone into the completion of a painting. Unfortunately, these artists have often ignored the outcome, focusing instead on the effort spent on the process.

In art, only the results count
Only a conscious effort towards a predetermined goal with a successful result can create anything worthwhile; anything else is merely an accident—not art.

Becoming a successful artist requires years of practice. The old adage applies to any career or profession—success is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration. It is most disappointing that, particularly in the field of art, many artists believe they shouldn’t have to practice because art is “creative”. This unfortunate philosophy was launched by the modern art movement and continues today to the detriment of all artists.

To achieve successful results, practice with specific goals in mind

An artist must recognize where they are deficient. It’s not productive to say,
“I’m going to paint better”. That is a meaningless statement. Instead, ask yourself, “How can I improve my paintings?” Isolate your problems and then take a class or workshop from a professional who can successfully target your particular challenges. Insist that your instructor demonstrate how to help you to correct your inadequacies.

When you think you have acquired the new skills, continue to practice. Remember, it might take five or six hundred paintings before you have truly achieved your goal. This is the effort required to become a successful painter. If possible, show your work to your instructor and ask if you have met your objective. Don’t fool yourself into believing that you are successful just because you have worked so hard!
Focused perseverance will undoubtedly produce the desired results

October Harvest Demo

Armand Cabrera

I was drawn to this image of this old tractor with the pumpkins in the foreground. It has a timeless quality to it. Because this was on private property I first asked permission to paint there. The owner was very accommodating and allowed me to go ahead and set up and paint.

I set up and chose an 11×14 panel. I wanted the tractor to be the main focus with the pumpkins leading you into the painting. I started by massing in the main areas of the painting with some perspective lines for the foreground.

I am careful to get the value of each area correct. These flat poster-like shapes of value are what hold the areas together and will still be visible in the finished painting.

I work large to small so once the main shapes are established I begin to model the smaller areas and forms within the big shapes. I look for hue, temperature and saturation changes as opposed to more value changes. Most of the time painters break up the initial value pattern with too many value changes, this fractures the over all composition and weakens the paintings unity. To avoid this I constantly check my choices comparing their relative color and value and size against the rest of the established areas.

I’m ready for the pumpkins; I begin with a mid-tone color for their group mass and then model the pumpkins forms add some more modeling to the vines and tilled ground. I now soften edges throughout the painting where appropriate.

Geometric Planes in Painting

Armand Cabrera

Have you ever noticed that even though some artists have painted areas of light and shadow in their paintings, their pictures still seem to have no unifying sense of light? That is because they have incorrectly painted the planes that make up the objects in the painting.

Planes, as they pertain to painting, are one of the most essential concepts for creating a sense of light and space in your work. Planes help create the illusion of form. It is the ability to correctly identify where the planes are on a form and their angle to the light that helps to make a successful painter. Whenever you see a plane change, you must also change the hue, temperature or value to record it. Imagine the facets of a diamond. The flattened areas are planes. By observing the way light changes on these planes, you can create a believable form.

When painting the landscape, the idea of planes still applies. Think of the earth as a large, horizontal plane. Trees and buildings would be upright planes and hills and mountains would be inclined planes. We know that light from the sun falls in parallel rays. When this light falls on different objects in the landscape, it is the direction of the light in relation to the angle of the plane of the object that determines the brightness. When the plane of an object is perpendicular to the direction of the light—that place is the object’s brightest point. It is the consistency with which you paint this relationship that creates a unifying sense of light in your work.

The outdoor painter has the added challenge of atmospheric recession and the suns movement across the sky. As the sun moves, the angle of the light changes…and changes the way it interacts with the scene. This is why it is imperative to lock in the essential divisions of light and shadow as quickly as possible when painting from life.

Color Theory Basics Part I

Armand Cabrera

Color is hinged on value. To have good color, you must have accurate values. To have accurate values, you must get the correct relationships between the colors and values right. Colors and values seen by the human eye are hundreds of times greater than what is available in your pigments. Because of this, you must get the differences correct.

EXAMPLE: For measurement, we will use a value scale of 10 places, where 0 = black and 9 =white.
Let’s say all the things you see in the sunlight are at a range of 6, 7 and 8 on the value scale. All the shadows are at a range of 3, 4 and 5. Therefore, all the colors in the sunlight or shadows must be in their respective value range–including white and black.
So…white in the shadow cannot be lighter than a 5 on the value scale.
Black in the sunlight can’t be darker than a 6.

It’s futile to copy the color you’re seeing unless you compare it to every color around it. To compare something, you must first have something to compare it with, right?
I always start with the thing I ‘m sure of…so if I am sure of the color and value of the sky, I start with that. If I’m sure of the color and value of the grass, then that will be my starting point.
I then evaluate all my other colors and values to my initial choice.

So how do you make the range of different colors you see in nature fit into the limitations imposed by your pigments? This is where you can use the other aspects of color to show the variety of your scene without compromising the value differences.
The other aspects of color are saturation, hue and temperature.

When faced with a slight change in value, see if you can use a hue change or temperature change to capture it. Save your value changes for the great division of light and shadow.


Armand Cabrera

Brushstrokes carry a message whether you will it or not. The stroke is just like the artist at the time they make it. All the certainties, all the uncertainties, all the bigness of their spirit and all the littleness are in it.
~Robert Henri

Brush Calligraphy is the stylistic application of your paint.

The paint is applied without overworking it once you have laid it on the canvas. Brush calligraphy can be instinctive as an outgrowth of your style…or an intentional approach to strengthen the composition and design of your painting. Brush calligraphy shouldn’t be haphazard. In other words, a conscious approach to your brush application is always preferable to an unconscious one. Effective brush calligraphy is often a valuable way of intensifying passages of interest and design overlooked by many artists who restrict their thinking in terms of color and value.

Many times, a small sketch has more life than a larger studio painting because of brush calligraphy. The quality of a stroke you make with the flick of your wrist on a small painting becomes a challenge to reproduce on a larger scale because the effort of your whole arm is needed to gain the identical outcome. When you consider the relationship between the size of the stroke, relative to the size of the canvas, you will understand the challenge when using a large brush with adequate paint for the result you wish to accomplish.

Paint strokes are not just about direction or size…they also encompass the thickness of the application. When thicker passages of paint are applied to a painting surface, you create a sculptural effect. The combination of these effects takes your painting beyond the idea of reproducing what you see. Brush calligraphy offers the viewer layers of interest beyond the initial two dimensional image and the ability to render it. A purposeful approach to brushwork makes a painting a forceful statement.