Painting Autumn Color

Armand Cabrera
Painting autumn color can be challenging. It is important to remember the relative intensity of color and not get caught up in using pure pigments for representation unless it is actually needed to describe the scene. Back lit scenes in sunlight  are very intense but again, think of everything in relation to what’s around it. For that intensity to be effective there must be areas of less saturated color or the intensity is lost.



To help find the proper intensity of a color it is important to consider its other attributes, hue and value. All three parts make up the color you are seeing and so all three aspects should be carefully considered in relationship to the surrounding areas and the rest of the picture as a whole.
It also helps to decide through careful observation in general, where the intensity lies. Is it in the shadow or the lights? By deciding this ahead of time you are keying the pictures intensity to one or the other giving you a stronger arrangement to work with.
Sometimes the limitations of paint call for a creative solution to translating the scene to your canvas. In cases where it is impossible to get the color accurate in all three aspects, I make a design decision about which attribute is most important and then hold that as close to what I am seeing in nature as possible and shift the other two aspects to give me a closer representation of the effect.
This may mean shifting the hue of a red, green or yellow to preserve its value and chroma so it reads correctly in the scene. Or it could mean shifting the chroma to something less intense while preserving the value.These decisions need awareness so a little extra effort on our part is called for to get the most from our painting during this time of year.

Honoring the Social Contract


Armand Cabrera
I’ve noticed some interesting ideas floating around now about what I’ve always thought of as work ethic and what I was thought to believe about the social contract. I was taught growing up that I could have whatever I wanted as long as I made it myself or paid for it. I don’t need other people’s ideas or talent or stuff. When I honor others right to make a living from their work, I protect my own right to the same. The social contract is secure. It’s a philosophy that is pretty straight forward and simple.
Yes, some people had better advantages than I did but their lives didn’t affect me and I just needed to work and focus and if I was smart enough I would achieve my goals. I would rise to the level of my abilities.  I was taught my desire or perceived need does not give me a license to steal from others.
That idea seems to be broken now. Many people seem to think that the world owes them something. These people think they are special just because they exist and that everything and everyone out there is fodder to help them achieve their goals. They would never pay for something they could steal.
 In the art world these entitlements manifest as stealing other peoples work and using it without permission or compensation. Allowing the thief to pretend to have skills they don’t actually have. With digital technology there is absolutely no excuse for using another’s work that isn’t your own since everyone is carrying at least a still camera and can shoot their own reference.
Don’t have a particular reference for a thing? You can model it. Need something more complex than you have the ability for? You can pay someone to make it for you as a 3d model or physical model. Can’t afford to pay someone? Then go without.
It’s lazy and immoral to take other peoples work without asking and or paying for it, always. No one should be asked to or expected to work for free. Need is not a justification for theft, ever.

Finding a personal view

Armand Cabrera
The question about what makes good subject matter for a painting always comes up in my classes. In my view painting breaks down into two basic philosophies that are polar opposites with many variations in between them.
One idea is the Subject with a capitol S this is usually something grand, dramatic or very complex. In these types of paintings everything is in service to the subject and handling is secondary. You see realists mostly in this camp. Their focus is on illusion and not so much stylistic interpretation in their mark making. Even though this is the case it is still a personal view and the individuality manifest itself in other ways.
The opposite idea is the handling is the goal and the subject is secondary. The handling takes an ordinary subject or no subject at all and makes it interesting. You see looser representational painters and nonrepresentational painters fall into this category. These painters like leaving visible marks that call attention to the process not the subject. The complexity is in the abstract arrangements of surface quality and color and edge.
Of course these are the extremes and there is everything in between too. Most people fall somewhere toward the middle of these ideas, where either subject or handling dominates but both are integral to the paintings success.
 The importance of understanding this is to help the artist decide what kind of painter they are and guide them to what they love to do. To help them find where they fit between those philosophies if at all?  Finding a personal view makes a better painter because a painting that is heartfelt and honest in its approach and interest will find some aspect of the truth of a thing. In my mind that is where all good painting comes from.

Lady Elizabeth Butler (ne’e Thompson)

By Armand Cabrera
Elizabeth Thompson was born in Lausanne Switzerland in 1846. She was the oldest of two daughters of Thomas James Thompson and his second wife Christiana Weller. Her mother was an amateur artist and Elizabeth showed an interest in drawing at the age of five. The family spent their summers in the Italian Riviera and the children were home schooled. After formal studies in England the family returned to Italy where Elizabeth began study with Giuseppe Bellucci in Florence in 1869. By 1870 she was painting religious subjects and portraits of friends. She also sketched in pen and pencil and watercolor. Here sketches were mostly soldiers and men in battle.
In 1874 she submitted the painting Roll Call to the Royal Academy. The painting became a huge success for the young painter with critics and the public alike. Huge crowds gathered to see it and it was so popular the Academy sent it on tour. Multiple people bid to own it and the painting was eventually purchased by Queen Victoria. The Queen allowed engravings to be made of the image and prints were sold to the public.
Almost overnight Elizabeth became a much sought after artist. She continued to paint military subjects to great acclaim. Elizabeth made sure her paintings were as accurate as possible. Because of her fame and success many of the men who had taken place in the battles she depicted would pose for her paintings in their uniforms.
Her career changed the view of women painters and the idea of what military paintings should be about. John Ruskin who had proclaimed he thought no woman was capable of painting to a professional level publically recanted his statement after viewing Elizabeth’s work. Her paintings were not just action scenes of battles but focused on the human elements of suffering and bravery and the individuals taking part in the conflict.
In 1877 Elizabeth married Major William Butler. She had six children. Elizabeth traveled with her husband through Africa, the Middle East and Europe as he carried out his military service. After the Boer Wars (1880-81 and 1899-1902) the interest in military painting dwindled and though Elizabeth continued to paint, twentieth century taste turned away from realism to modernism.
Elizabeth Thompson Butler died in 1933 at the age of 87.
A Dictionary of European Genre Painting
Phillip Hook and Mark Poltimore
The Antique Collectors Club 1986
Lady Butler Battle Artist 1846-1933
Paul Usherwood and Jenny Spencer Smith
Sutton publishing LTD 1987
An Autobiography
By Elizabeth Butler
Constable & Co. LTD 1922

I never painted for the glory of war, but to portray its pathos and heroism.
~ Lady Elizabeth Butler


Archiving Work Part 1

Cloud Storage


Armand Cabrera

Network storage has been around for quite a while but system access was limited to a company or possibly a University. In 2007 Dropbox created the first public subscription based cloud service.

At the entry level most cloud storage providers offer you free space. This is in the 5 to 10 GB with the ability to buy more storage for a monthly or yearly fee. Remeber this information is fluid and things change rapidly it is always good to do a search on cloud services to get current information. This information is relevant in January 2014.

Amazon, Apple, DropBox, Google and Microsoft all offer free space so if you have an account with one of these services you already have access to at least 5 GB of free space.

For $60 to $100 a year some companies offer unlimited storage.  As of this writing JustCloud, YouSendit, OpenDrive, Carbonite and Online Storage all offer unlimited plans for those that need a lot of space.  If you work digitally, or use video as well as photography these plans might be for you. Personally I can get by with about 1TB of space a year but as image file resolution increases so will our needs for more space.

You should know that keeping things with a cloud service can forfeit your exclusive right to that data. Many of the contracts state this in their EULA (end user license agreement) be sure to read and understand what you are giving away before you just click through that contract.

Most of these companies have basic security but the problem with services is you are pooling a lot of information into a few places. While their security is probably better than your home computer security, your home computer isn’t as likely to be hacked and information stolen just because an individual isn’t as big of a target for criminals. The other problem is when things are hacked you run a greater risk because most likely all your devices are connected to your cloud service. I have heard stories of people being locked out of all of their devices, (phone pad, laptop,) once their cloud account was hacked. Connectivity has its downside so be aware. Companies also come and go so beware just because you are with a company doesn’t mean that company can’t or won’t go out of business.

Cloud storage is cheap and easy to use but I would not depend on it as an only means of archiving my work. The threats I mentioned are lessened when you archive your work in multiple places. Personally I only use cloud storage to move and store current work and I keep that same work on magnetic drives in my studio. I do not link to my cloud storage so that if the information is compromised it doesn’t spread to everything I own. All retired work for permanent archiving is kept on physical media like Optical storage.

I use dropbox more than any other cloud storage service. If you join them, please use this link so I can get some more free space, thanks.