Clifton Demo

This demo was for students from George Mason University. Every year for the last few years I have come out to The Clifton institute to demo and talk to freshman students about how I interact with nature as an artist. This year 120 student were there to ask questions and see my process as a painter. As an artist I support preservation of native ecosystems and biodiversity and I appreciate what the institute does.

I decided to paint the house with its striking pink color against a very blue spring sky.
For a scene like this with the sun at my back I must be more careful to check my values and colors. If you don’t pay attention when painting in the sun like this you can get your paintings too dark. For this painting I used a palette of warm and cool primary colors; Cobalt Blue Ultramarine Blue Alizarin Crimson Cadmium Red Light, Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium  Lemon and Titanium White

 I  make a careful drawing of the scene and the other elements with a big brush. I use mostly flats for my work preferring their versatility to other brush shapes. Using flats allows me to paint with fewer brushes overall which mean a lighter rig to carry. I like Robert Simmons Signets they are the best brushes on the market in my opinion and hold up to all of the abuse I put them through.  I’ve tried every other brand out there and nothing else comes close in quality and durability.

 Because the color of the sky is so important to my idea for the painting I put that in first. When starting relatively early in the morning like I did the sky can change dramatically as the day progresses so getting it locked in is important.

Working from large to small I mass in the local color and tone for more of the elements.
I continue this same process and then start to refine shapes and angles and clean up any edges and drawing errors that become more obvious as I work toward finish
The completed painting pink and blue 24 x 30 oil on linen Painting time 3 hours.

Andrew Loomis Reprints

By Armand Cabrera

I have written about Andrew Loomis before on this blog, you can find those articles in the sidebar under Andrew Loomis. Now Titan Books has reprinted five of the six books written by Loomis while he was still alive. The seventh Eye of the Painter was published posthumously after his death and is more of a philosophical book than a how to book and has not yet been reprinted.



 The books are beautifully reproduced and are quite a bargain at fewer than 30 dollars each. Even though I own a complete set of the original books I bought the reprints to use as working copies and they are exact large format hard cover books and reproduced down to the typos.
The last one, Successful Drawing was revised during Loomis’ lifetime and re-released as Three Dimensional Drawing with an additional 20 pages of information not included in the first book. I had hoped Titan would combine the volumes and release them but they didn’t. Still, Successful Drawingis worth the price for any serious artist.


If you are just starting out these books are invaluable for getting you on the right track. Support the publisher and family by buying these books. While some of the information is dated stylistically, the fundamental ideas are all sound and still relevant to this day.

More on Color Theory


Armand Cabrera
I have noticed more and more students eschewing direct observation from life for their painting and in doing so slowing their efforts to be better artists and illustrators. Some of this is an over reliance on digital tools but not always.  I see a lot of bad habits developing around color in particular. The biggest flaw I see most student work is monochromatic color strings for elements of the paintings and no interaction between the colors of the elements within the image.
I believe there are a few reasons for this.
They are making up the scene from their imagination without having enough of a mental library of images. An artist builds a mental library from working from life studying how light and shadow affects the color of objects and scenes around them.
They are using photos and video pulled off the web or other outside sources and have no understanding of the place or thing in the photo or video because they didn’t actually generate the reference. Photos are really bad at showing real world aspects of color and value.
They are coloring a black and white sketch, painting over the top of it without any modification of the hue and saturation of the color for light and shade. This lets the under drawing control the color which just lightens or darkens the chosen hue.

Color shifts from light to dark are poly-chromatic. That is the hue, saturation and value all change as the color lightens or darkens. These changes are altered by the angle, quality and color of the light source and all of the other lit elements in the scene that also act as secondary and tertiary sources of light.

It is up to the artist paint these transitions with understanding.  This is why working from life is so important; careful studied observation is the quickest way to learn about color and light for a representational painter.  I have used illustrations by N.C. Wyeth for this post because he had such a complete understanding of color and light his paintings glow.


Remember, all worthwhile theories started with careful observation, so if someone tells you that you need some complex color theory to learn about color, they are wrong. Theories can have their place in helping to clarify what you are seeing but in isolation without real world observation to back it up they quickly devolve into systems of formulaic painting.

Kate Elizabeth Bunce

By Armand Cabrera


Kate Bunce was born in Birmingham England in 1856. She was the second of five daughters. Her mother was Rebecca Ann Cheesewright and her father was John Thackray Bunce the editor of the Birmingham Daily Post.  Kate attended the Birmingham school of art in the 1880 and 1890’s. During her years there she won a bronze medal for her work.
Her father’s standing provided for her financially and she did not need to marry. She pursued art and never left the family home. Kate showed her work at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists and Royal Academy starting in 1887. A devote Anglican, she stopped producing work for galleries and focused on religious work for churches instead. Kate Bunce died in 1927 at the age of seventy one.
Women Artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement
Jan Marsh and Pamela Gerrish Nunn


Verago Press Limited 1989

In Search of a Perfect Palette

Armand Cabrera
An artist’s palette is their life’s blood. In some ways your palette defines your style more than your mark making does. The perfect palette has been searched for since artists started applying pigments to cave walls.
I think an artist’s palette should be organic and morph as our artistic tastes change. It should also reflect what we believe about painting. Whatever palette you choose as an artist it will serve you better if you make conscious decisions about the pigments you include.
When I started painting I was 15 and a sophomore in high school. I was given a set of acrylics for my birthday. I never questioned the pigment choices in the set and just began painting immediately. This type of palette is most artists’ first introduction to painting and I call it a stage one palette. A palette is chosen for you by someone who is hopefully more knowledgeable about painting than you are.  All of the pigments are there because someone told you to put them there and it doesn’t really matter who that person was. Many people stay in this stage for years never questioning their palette.
A stage two palette is an augmented stage one palette. It usually occurs when an artist’s ability catches up to their philosophy and they start to question their art to improve it. One of the ways we improve is by changing things up and the palette is a prime target for change. You start to see colors and values in other peoples work that you don’t see in your own. This usually leads to an inclusion of more colors to the palette, and more influences from videos, books and workshops and other artists as you expand your abilities with other pigments.
The final stage for an artist is a personal palette. A personal palette isn’t static and unchanging but it is self-directed. The artist through study and practice decides to include every pigment on their palette. The palette allows them to express themselves to their full potential as an artist. The palette may be limited to just a few colors or not, but all the colors are there for reasons the artist has decided upon, not anyone else.
My palette comes from years of exploring stage one palettes. I use a piece of glass on my studio table. My palette is a prismatic palette consisting eight pigments which are: Viridian, Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Alizarin Permanent, Cadmium Red Light, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Cadmium Yellow Pale, and Titanium White.  I not only use this palette for landscapes but also still life and figure painting. By removing earth colors and pure black I am forced to mix my grays which give me the opportunity to find more vibrant color choices than pure neutrals allow.