Firnew Farm Demo

Armand Cabrera

I had the pleasure of doing a demo for the art group at Firnew Farm Thursday afternoon. Trish Crowe was very gracious letting me come out to their beautiful property and paint, and I think we had about 40 people or more show up.

I chose a 24×36 canvas and the painting time for this demo was 3 hours.

The scene is the corn crib between the main house and Trish’s studio. Because the angle of the sun and its relationship to the scene I had fairly consistent light over the time I was painting.
I decided the placement and size of the elements for the painting. One of my decisions is to leave out the main house on the left since it would be cut in half on the canvas and be a distraction.
I quickly draw my scene and establish my shadow pattern. I am working fast because of the size of the canvas and my unfamiliarity of the place. I would normally paint a small sketch first to get a feel for the lighting shifts during the day before tackling something this size but I didn’t have time for that here.
After the drawing I block in everything with a middle shadow tone. I arrive at this tone by squinting to get just the big shapes of color and value.
I proceed to finish the painting in the time I have left, adjusting values and adding the lights and information to the initial masses.
The Corn Crib 24 x36, oil on canvas. Although this demo is looser than I usually paint I have captured the light and essence of the scene. I can now use this as a basis for a studio version knowing the colors and values will be accurate something a photo could never give me.

Butterfly Garden Demo

Armand Cabrera

The images for this article are from one of my demos at the Acadia Workshop I taught out near Bass Harbor. I demo everyday in my workshops so the students can see how I solve problems not just hear me talk about it.
Gail Ribas the owner of Acadia Workshops has a great venue and the locations are all beautiful. She has a big well lit studio for inclement days. We had a class of 9 students. We’ve scheduled another class   for next fall, Sept 19-23 and I already have a couple of students planning to be there.

For me, the trip was a dream come true, on the way up I stayed in Gloucester for two nights near Rocky Neck. I had perfect weather and got a painting in the one full day I was there. I visited the Cape Ann Museum and and got some pictures of motiff number one in Rockport so I can do my painting of it at a later date.
 Stapleton Kearns was very helpful suggesting places to visit. Once in Maine I actually got to meet Stapleton one evening after my class and he let me hang out with him and his group while they were painting in Acadia Park.

This demo is from Charlotte Rhoades Park in Southwest Harbor five minutes from the workshop center.I want to thank Wyn Easton for taking these photos of me during the painting process. Diane is always after me to photograph my demos but I can demo and talk or demo and photograph but I can’t demo, talk and photograph at the same time.

The garden club has a beautiful butterfly garden in full bloom and I always find it a treat to paint. The challenge is to not get lost in too much detail and preserve the big divisions of light and shadow in the scene. This kind of motif can easily be distracting because of all of the saturated color and lack of solid forms.

I spent a few minutes observing and deciding what I was going to move around for my painting and how I would place the elements I wanted in the image.

I started with a simple contour drawing of the big masses as I saw them.

I then blocked in the average shadows being sensitive to hue changes for the different plants and shrubs.

I continue to block all the big shapes in preserving their relative brightness to sun and shadow.

At the very last stages of the painting I refine shapes, adjust values and add the flowers and some detail being careful not to lose the lights. The biggest mistake I see people make painting scenes like this is they get confused by the blooms and fail to preserve their sense of light.

The finished painting ‘Butterfly Garden’ 12×16 oil on linen painting time two hours.

Bouguereau Quotes Part 2

Armand Cabrera

This final group of quotes represents the last  of three articles on Bouguereau that I started two weeks ago. At some point I might return and write about his process since it is well documented and maybe it will help to dispel the myths that have grown around him. For those interested the ARC sponsored book on Bouguereau is out at $262.00 US dollars, it is 800 pages and is a luxury two-volume set in a slipcase, which includes all of Bouguereau’s known paintings as well as a comprehensive biography. I’m trying to figure out how I can justify buying one and slip it by Diane. If anyone wants to buy and send me a copy I’ll be happy to review it here:-)

Every morning I get up at seven without fail and have breakfast, then I go up to my studio which I don’t leave all day. Around three o’clock, a light meal is brought in; I don’t have to leave my work. I rarely have visitors, since I hate to be disturbed. My friends though are always welcome. They don’t bother me, I can work even when it’s noisy or they’re chatting. When I’m painting I don’t pay attention to anything else.

In painting, I’m an idealist. I see only the beautiful in art and, for me art is the beautiful. Why reproduce what is ugly in nature? I don’t see why it should be necessary. Painting what one sees just as it is, no- or at least, not unless one is immensely gifted. Talent is all redeeming and can excuse anything. Nowadays, painters go much too far, just as writers and realist novelists do. There is no way of telling where they will draw the line. I prefer poets; each to his own taste.

Starting a picture is very pleasant, for you always believe that this time you’re going to create a masterpiece; you take pains, and little by little the painting takes shape, the effect comes through. You feel marvelous sensations. When it’s done however things are different. You want to touch up the arm, the movement of the body doesn’t seem graceful…and you end up doing nothing for fear of having to redo the whole thing completely.

People say I paint to make money; it’s not true. I don’t need to make money; my family and I already have more than we need. But I have to paint all the time as I see feel, and know. That’s all there is to it. People pay a lot for my paintings and I’m not complaining; it proves my work is still appreciated. But if they didn’t sell as well as they do it wouldn’t stop me from making them.

Theory has no place in an artist’s basic education. It is the eye and the hand that should be exercised during the impressionable years of youth. It is always possible to later acquire the accessory knowledge involved in the production of a work of art, but never — and I want to stress that point — never can the will, perseverance, and tenacity of a mature man make up for insufficient practice. And can there be such anguish compared to that felt by the artist who sees the realization of his dream compromised by weak execution?

And Now For Something Completely Different

As many of you already know I started my art career as an illustrator working in science fiction and fantasy. This was back in the mid eighties and before computers were tools for artists. Computer games looked like pong and pacman not like a blockbuster movie.

I still work in games and in Science Fiction and Fantasy and recently had the opportunity to contribute to a book called SciFi Art Now. John Freeman is the editor and has a blog where he is interviewing some of the artists for the book. My interview is here with a link to a download of this step by step demo in .pdf format.

My piece in the book was made digitally using my own photo reference and 3d models and combined and painted in photoshop. For this piece I painted right on the plate (photo) although this isn’t always how I work digitally it is an effective tool to quickly sketch ideas and bring them to completion. The following is the step by step process I used to make Marooned.


I started with a photo I took on a painting trip to the Sierras in Eastern California. The sandstone looked melted and gave me the idea for a crashed spaceship. I got down on the ground to shoot the small sandstone rocks from a worms eye view.


1. I  separated the foreground from the sky into two layers. Using a hard brush, selecting local colors and the eraser tool I began to make the framework of the spaceship.


2. I created a third layer for my figures around a fire and established some color to get the general feel of how it will fit in the scene.

3. Next I painted some walls with portholes to make the ship seem familiar, again using the local colors in the photo to keep the sense of light.


4. I continue to add more hard edges and machine like shapes and establish a horizon line with mountains in the distance.
5. I rough in the figures around the fire on another layer. I paint them all in warm hues so they will stand out against the rest of the scene. I make one figure female and the two sitting figures male to create a subliminal tension for the scene. Next I created a sky gradient on another layer. This will be my basis for the stars and planetoids that come next.
6. I create stars by using the noise filter then selecting a limited color range and copying and flipping the selection. I do this a couple of times adding a layer each time and make a color pass over each version to vary the look of the star field. The last thing I do is go in and hand paint selected stars with the airbrush tool before collapsing the layers back down.


7. I build and light the planetoids in 3ds Max and then import the images on to their own layer in Photoshop. At this point I collapse all of the layers except the figures and fire and then manipulate the colors and values to harmonize the scene. I want everything to be covered in dust to give the sense of the passage of time, unifying the color does this and I choose a color that will compliment the tones in the fire.

8. To finish the painting, I collapse the whole image and adjust the color for the figures and add more detail around them. I work all over the image fixing and adjusting where I think things need it.

Red Wolf Demo

Armand Cabrera

This is a Step by step demo of a Red Wolf head study I did for an art forum I frequent. Someone on the forum was wondering how to paint fur. I thought I would repost it here too, so I apologize if you’ve already seen it. The photo was taken by me when I was out in California at one of the zoo’s there.
The size of this painting is 10×12 inches and I am working in oils; my palette consists of Viridian, Ultramarine Blue, Alizarin Permanent, Cad Red Light, Cad Yellow Light, and Titanium White

The first thing I did was draw the contour of the wolf with a brush getting the general shape down quickly.

Then I looked for the big color and value changes and blocked those in ignoring details and edge quality at this point.

Next I start to modify those big shapes by adjusting the smaller changes within them and paying attention to their edges.

The last thing I do is scrub in a background so I can paint the highlights and paint the details and refine the proportions where I think they need it. I am not really trying to paint any differently than when I paint a landscape. While there is a little more accuracy involved here, the approach is basically the same for whatever subject I tackle.

Complete time for this is two hours. These types of exercises are great for practice; changing subject matter is a good way to apply the ideas of picture making that you have developed. If your ideas have any veracity they should work for any subject matter. If not they are most likely a formula and should be re-thought or discarded for something more universal.