Tag: foundation art basics

Control Freak – Pros and Cons

Control Freak – Pros and Cons

“Control”  Many of us, don’t like that word!

But, Control in balance is a good thing.  It does have its assets and its liabilities.


Its about Control

By nature, I’m a wee bit of a control freak. Maybe I’ve tried to deny it. Perhaps I’ve ignored it. But, I’m pretty sure, I am in the line marked “Control Freaks line up here.”

I know, my family have no doubts on this, whatsoever.

Seeing how the little guy, resorts to calling me “Yes Gramma Sir” after an especially naughty incident with rocks, or that one time when he accidentally downloaded $300 of games.


Collage, total control



Having control over certain things is necessary and even vital to your health.

You need to be able to not lose control if you’re a ER doctor.

If you’re trying to gentle a wild frightened horse.

If you’re being bitten and attacked by a crazed german shepherd.

I can check off two of those!  And having control of myself was really a key to optimum outcomes for both incidents.


Also having 23  five year olds over for a birthday party ….. Somebody, better be in control let me tell you!


crashing sea spray waves in watercolors, debiriley.com
Crashing Sea Spray, guided control,  debiriley.com



Control…. in Art

But trying to force control upon a painting,  has not been a very effective way of creating decent art works I’ve discovered.

It just leads to mess.

Frustration. Tears. And some ripped up paintings.

My inner need and want for “Control” just plays havoc with the outcome I wish to create.



Work With The Paints

But,  ‘working with’   and  ‘partnering’  with the brush and paints…. that’s a whole new ball game! A Guided Control works wonderfully.

That kind of respect seems to work much better and gives more successful outcomes.


Zen Unbounded, wabi sabi, debiriley.com
Zen Unbounded


Guided Control

This single brushstroke has a measured, thoughtful approach.

Yet its full of tiny surprises within.

I allowed the imperfections to rise up and remain, rather than struggling for a perfectly flat and even solid stroke of color.

This effect becomes so much…..  More!



Its strange to contemplate……

“lose control, to get  better paintings”




Painting Design

The Focal Point.  Centre of Interest.  ie who is in control of the design?

If, there is no one or nothing in clear dominance,   chaos reigns.

Disorder prevails.

The eye tires. We weary and fade, exhausted. Too tired to care!

Without a Focal Point to dominate, those 23 five year olds start painting the walls, curtains, chasing cats, painting the cats.  We can’t have that!


Thru the Gap debiriley.com
The Eye Goes….Thru the Gap debiriley.com


Dominance in the Design

We seek balance.

Unity.  Unification.

We need a clear Dominant feature,  with lesser subordinates as side helpers.


Think of a Play.  You have a star of the play  and co stars.  ie  the leading lady and  the  side kick. Plus, the fill ins….  the village people, the crowds.


A painting without  a Dominating element has no Order to the eye.

We scan.  Our eye then darts, hither thither and yon.  Alighting nowhere. And tires.




The abstract below has a dominant focal point.

It is in Control. It is in charge.

The other elements, submit  to it and flow gracefully into the focal point.


controlling the paint, debiriley.com
Controlling the Paint, debiriley.com


You can see that with a Dominant feature, a dominating element  our eye is happy.

We see the point. Where, to go.

We see unification, harmony, unification.  Nothing disjointed. Nor jarring.




The dominance of the feature controls the subservient elements.

To create harmony. Order.



So, really being a wee bit of a control freak isn’t such a terrible thing after all, if I work with it!




New Watercolor Brush

New Watercolor Brush

I made a purchase I thought I’d most likely regret.

But for $12.99 I was willing to take the risk!


watercolor brushes, art materials, comparing watercolour brushes, debiriley.com
Watercolor Brush Holcroft Sapphire #2



Watercolor Brushes

I’ve been using and recommending the Rekab 320s #2 squirrel watercolor brush for 20+ years. Many of my Art Basics,  watercolor posts have the brush mentioned, frequently.



New Brush to Try

A local art store has just released a watercolor brush ‘Holcroft Sapphire synthetic’ watercolor brush.  (Riot Arts and Craft, in  Perth Australia)

I had a look. A second look. And decided to try it.

Perhaps it might be a useful brush if students wanted to wait a bit to purchase the $28- $30 Rekab.  It was worth a test. So I made the purchase.



Thoughts on Holcroft #2

After a few experiments with the new synthetic Holcroft I have a few thoughts!

  • For the $12.99 it is a decent brush.
  • The brush has quite a delicate fine tip, which I like.
  • Its carrying capacity, ability to hold lots of paint – is decent.
  • This means, there is NO ‘dobbing’ of the paint.
  • The paint brush stroke is Long, fluid and flowing.
  • I’m able to come close, to what I can achieve with the Rekab.
  • Not 100% but maybe 80% which is pretty good for a synthetic.
  • Its long handle, has a good feel – sensitive.
  • Not clunky.
  • Acrylics in a wet, fluid form can be used with the brush.
  • Make sure though, to keep the brush rinsed clean, constantly.



I can recommend this brush.

But, I honestly still…. prefer the lovely sensitivity of the Rekab 320s better.

Its great to have options.      $12.99   as a ‘tide me over’   and  $28 as a ‘special birthday gift’   Sounds reasonable to me!






Creating Uniquely Original Content: Horses

Creating Uniquely Original Content: Horses

How do I do it? How do I find subjects that are truly, uniquely Mine?

I use my filters. Not my ipad, PS filters.

But just the way I look intently at everything.

I go on zen strolls.  I take photos of things, people and animals that,  I am in love with.





Creating Original Content

Looking. Being Curious. Taking notes. Inventing. Imagining. Envisioning.


I invent stories within my mind with the shapes and forms that  I see. Wondering how these puzzle pieces might fit together into an Intriguing art image.


Zeroing In on  the swirls and patterns of colors and tones.

Yup… Just for Fun.

Or, Maybe the cascading falls of water has strange figures hiding within. Could I use that?


I wander.  I wonder.  I exert enormous amounts of effort. ie   ‘hard work.’

I practice and test hundreds of things out.

I try.

I might cry. But I never,  run dry of creativity or imagination or original content.



Once You Open the Door 

I’ve opened the door to creativity and imagination.

And now it spills out. Unless I am totally exhausted overloaded or ill. But otherwise,  once I gave myself permission to BE me there are no dry patches.

Honestly, I’ve more creative ideas than I’ll ever have the actual energy to create with.   Thats ok too. I can accept that.




Creative.  Story Telling.

Creative story telling with artwork, whether its sculpture, photography, collage, oils, watercolors…. It is the whole point!


I don’t want to merely ‘record’ a place.

Its so important to make the beloved subject emote. Say something!

To tell some kind of story.

make the Viewer want to Come Into the art work!




Subject Choice 

Horses.  For centuries, the horse has been symbolic of strength, power and Freedom. Freedom is essential when we create, paint.

Art, can be our “horse”  –  our avenue of freedom and strength.



I chose Horses and riding as my theme today, as its a subject completely embedded within my soul.

I love horses.  My granddaughter very apparently,  does as well. She’s the rider. Again…. another Love.

We are far better at describing and making others see something that we ourselves Believe in, Know well and Love!    ….something well worth remembering…




about these images and formats


Have a think about these images.  About the types formats I used, the color choices made, the edge and focus choices.

The parts I chose to shoot and how.


Why,  would I choose these segments, and parts?   What meaning and symbolism could they have?  What kinds of ‘stories’  might each photograph bring to mind.   What does each evoke?


A Pattern emerges.  I might take 50 shots of an eye.  100 of hands, 200 of a dewdrop.  There is a reason.

Sometimes…. we don’t ‘see’ the reason right at that moment, it clarifies over time. As we review the overall collection.  Then we see a pattern emerging.   A message, ie some story that wants to be told.



I’m going to leave it to you,  to  come to your own conclusions on the 4 images.  And the stories and messages they may convey.




First Image

The eye, rein, rider graduating focus.

creating original content in art, debiriley.com
Connected – horse and rider And US    –   debiriley.com  (c)




The UPward head shot of the rider.

create unique stories in art, debiriley.com
Rider Up and loves the view     debiriley.com   (c)





The hands on the reins, in control but not fearful.


telling stories, creating content in art, debiriley.com
Calm, Focused Control of the Reins



The neck and mane, saddle, rein, hand, rider.



horse and rider unity, photo, debiriley.com
Unity of horse and rider





I love  telling stories through art.

Art, via color or brush, or photos … these,  can be our Words… so don’t hold back!!



This is how, we can create Uniquely original content  in our art.

Just use our own, words.





Art That’s Pretty or Art That’s Gritty?

Art That’s Pretty or Art That’s Gritty?

Is “Pretty” good enough?  How “Gritty” does it need to be?  These questions are what artists might ask themselves as they set out to create.

watercolor flower bouquet, still life, debiriley.com
Bouquet in Spring


Yes, Its a pretty spring flower painting.  But….


Pretty Picture


Merely surface pretty can be just plain vapid.   Leaving one hungry for more within a few minutes. Anxious to hurry up and move on to the “next.”

Prettiness does not necessarily always fill the well.


watercolor flower techniques, easy beginners watercolors, debi riley art
Soft Garden Blooms


If we’re lucky,  it will also have depth and substance. Thats when I know I have succeeded.


versions of grey, oil painting, debiriley.com
Grey Interpretations





black and white photography, sky clouds, contemplations, debiriley.com
dove released





versions of grey, mixing grey paint, debiriley.com
Inflections Blue Greys


On the other side: Gritty.

Unrelieved Stark, Raw emotion can be too painfully confronting and overwhelming, if its in excess.

If it is right in your face with no let up. There is Just Too much tension. We want to run for the hills!


The artist must balance the two (pretty and gritty)   on the fine edge of the highwire.

on the edge debiriley.com
On the Edge




Sometimes when I use the camera to create, I will try to evoke a quieter and reflective mood. But it is with the intent of contemplation.

I aim to draw the viewer in, to stir their imaginations and thoughts.

By camera or by brush.

creating mood, photos and art, debiriley.com
Reflecting in Darwin



I try to integrate and infuse my images with something beyond the surface of the subject.


To interject in between  these layers a deeper meaning and context, that hopefully the viewers will sense.

I aim to reveal from behind the veil, a vulnerability.

A sensitivity that surface pretty will not show.


I’m not always successful, but,  that is nearly always my creative goal.


Blue veil gouache and watercolor, debiriley.com
The Blue Veil

If I’ve been successful in my objectives,  then  my image is both  pleasing and has some grit.


rough bark photograph, canon eos, debi riley art, art basics
Rough Start, Getting Softer in The Back



Good, Enough

Now, to return to a phrase that really isn’t in my teaching vocabulary, nor in my practice vocabulary either.


“Good Enough.”

I don’t  use that term.


I use the terms:  “Does it meet my criteria,objectives?” ,

“Is it a step in the right direction, does it take me closer to where I’d like to go?”

These are positive and encouraging.



“Good Enough,”  has a ring of negativity that infers,  it will Never ever be Good Enough.

There will always be a flaw.

I choose optimism and positive reinforcement for my artistic self.





Definitely,  there are days I will choose Pretty Art  over Gritty Art.

Because that is what I need, on  that day.

But overall, I know that to improve my art,  I need to focus on creating art that has some grit to it along with the pretty.


Seeing Design: Silly Saturday

Seeing Design: Silly Saturday

Take a moment to pause. Have a look.  See all the design patterns within this shape now?  I passed it by – at my first glance.


art design, design element tone, negative spaces, blue patio wall white lattice patterns, debiriley.com
Art Design Shapes debiriley.com


Design Elements


The fascinating elements I like about this subject are:


  • There are at least 7 overlapping shapes that help create depth and visual interest.
  • The color blue, Ultramarine blue is lovely with the super light lemon yellow of the foliage in the back.
  • The curving directional line leads in,  a design tip helps guide the eye.
  • The negative spaces that the lattice creates are wonderful at holding the viewer’s attention.
  • And,  the patterns.  I simply love the pattern of this lattice work.



Tonal Values

Even on walks my eyes scan for shapes. Looking  for areas of Tone:  Light and areas of Dark.

And quite often I miss great subjects, walk right by.

As I nearly did with this one,  on the walk in Sydney suburb of Balmain.


walking past a great design in Balmain, seeing design in everyday things, debiriley.com
Walking Past

This is how my eye first scanned and registered the scene on first glance.  Walking past. In the rush to get my early morning cup of coffee down at the cafe and my mind on other things.  Lack of Caffeine will do that.



Details and Patterns


But when I paused.

Walked across the road.

Got quite close.

Then,  I saw some wonderful details and delightful patterns.






I used this image and a few others I took on my “coffee walk”   as springboards for  some flower doodles in watercolor and markers.  Upcoming soon….



‘Dry Bushland’  Landscape in Oils

‘Dry Bushland’ Landscape in Oils

Walking on the edge of Autumn, is a wonderfully creative zone to be in. Cool mornings finally settle into place. Scorches of summer heat have scarred the land however, in monochromatic crisp browns.

I left early for my walk, grateful for the invigorating morning air and full of curiosity. Wondering. What things of interest might I find today?  Even if,  its the dry edge of Autumn.


Bushland landscape in oils, debiriley.com
Dry Bushland, Oils


The Landscape is Dry

No, at first I wasn’t duly impressed.

As you probably realize – I Adore Color!  This can be a distraction.

A flaw, in a way.  Its not a good thing to overlook the bare bones beauty of the Tones and Shapes of the subject in front of me…… to try to find the showy, the flashy bright pretty colors that I ‘want to see’.



Flashy  is not always BEST.

Substance, a good underlying structure and foundation is though.  I did learn this from Simon Kogan…. post Light and Shade, the Lily.   Simon Kogan also introduced me to the incredibly amazing art of Morandi.  Morandi was able to distill tones, shapes and patterns into paintings that are simply beautiful. The bare bones of light and shade.


Work on Areas of Weakness

I have had to work hard on this area!  Its a struggle.

I know it is a weakness, I know it is there.

So I have to compensate.  I make myself look for the Bare Bones of the scene first… the Big shapes and the Tonal Values for success.


What I found was a cool pale sky, with monochromatic assorted browns of grass and foliage.  Nothing earth shaking.  At first glance.   Maybe a second, a third glance. A side glance!

I am determined.


bushland oil painting, landscape, debiriley.com
Dry Edge of Autumn

I am resolved,  determined.

Fine!   My husband might be correct in his opinion…. ‘stubborn.’    But,  I refuse to let things conquer me.  I can overcome them, if I persist with my efforts.

That, right there  is a great tip for  every Beginner artist – painter, watercolor, oil, what have you.




Taking several shots along my walk, mostly all in browns I came home to download the images.  Finding a few interesting ones to inspire me, I glanced at them, made mental and written  notes and set to work.



In The Studio

To the studio to get my oil paints out.   Which colors?  White, burnt sienna, burnt umber, cerulean, raw sienna.



My working process was fast and simple. I scrubbed the sky in. Using a cotton cloth I rubbed white with a bit of cerulean to rub in evenly in all over, smoothly. Like velvet.

Foreground browns were brushed in, as fast as possible.  Making sure the bottom had a hint, a suggestion…. of darker tone to ‘anchor’ the foreground.

The focal point foliage was next.  Using an old and nasty, bristly brush that was quite splayed and bent,  I dipped it into 2-3 colors.  Then roughly jabbed upwards.  This created a rough and ragged top of the foliage.



Balance of calm to busy I was aiming for was 2/3 calm and serene.   With 1/3  busier, that had more visual interest for the viewer.


The overall image  intent I believe was conveyed.   It speaks of Dry Summer heat and a stillness that waits.  For the rains to come.


A close up ‘detail’  of  Dry Bushland

bushland oil landscape, debiriley.com
Detall – of Dry Bushland







You can see I did not copy,  try to duplicate the photograph shown.

I chose to interpret and to feel it;  to express how I felt about it and what I heard it communicating to me.

When I paint the Land – I do my best to convey the Spirit of the place.  The essence, as opposed to the exact specific identifying crossroad sign or street numbers.

I aim to make the viewer  feel  something. I want to evoke an emotion in the viewer when they see the landscape painting.


This is finished. I won’t ‘add’ more embellishments to it.   No frills, no frou-frou.


I was determined… and I did find manage to uncover some tiny scraps of color here and there!   Which you will see in upcoming posts.












Lovely Lines in Art

Lovely Lines in Art

I love to see a balance of directional Lines in my compositions, photos, drawings and watercolor paintings.  The 3 directional lines are: Horizontal lines, Vertical lines and Diagonal lines. See if you can find these in the 3 images I’ve featured.

Lines in design, art, debiriley.com
Cobwebs and Lines


Design Element Lines

After the previous post on the watercolor  3 basic types of Edges and creating depth,  I was inspired to jot down some notes on the 3 major types of Directional Lines for design.

Each of the 3 major types of Lines serve a distinct function and can be a great use in your compositions if you plan for just a second or two.

Wonderfully expressive and useful,  Lines can become one of the artist’s  greatest tools.




Vertical Lines in Design  

These are upright lines which will create a bit of energy to the image. They are great to use to create some tension and break up a design that is too heavy on the horizontal side.

In the landscape, verticals could be…. telephone poles, trees, skyscrapers, waterfalls.

If done too repetitiously throughout the image, Vertical Lines can become very ‘imprisoning.’

Take care not to overuse them and soften the edges,  especially near the perimeter edges of the paper.

This will help bring the viewer’s eye back in to your artwork.   Very Important. 




Horizontal Lines

Lines that direct your eye in a horizontal movement are calming.  They promote peacefulness, serenity, relaxation.

If you are wanting to unwind…. choose a dominantly horizontal design to reinforce the feelings of calm and relaxation.  Horizontals could be…. ponds, rivers, lakes, oceans.

Do add in a small diagonal or vertical,  just so that the viewer doesn’t fall entirely to sleep!

lovely,bold lines in design, debiriley.com
Bold Lines




Diagonal Lines 

These are highly energetic, and say “Lets GO!”

They need to be placed thoughtfully. Sometimes in an expanse of flatness to offset the all that energy is a good balance. Often just in small doses. Less is more.

In a landscape, a diagonal could be … a Mountain, a sky/clouds, tree, branches, or rooftops.

Try to have the diagonals end before the edge of the paper  to keep the viewer’s eye in.


Diagonal lines will lead the eye, somewhere.

Be careful it isn’t out of your picture and over to another artist’s painting hanging just next to yours.  Their painting, could be the one sold instead!

It happens.

Well,  it happened to me one time. That artist thanked me too!




teal lovely lines, debiriley.com
Teal Lines


Sometimes you can utilise the format of the canvas as your vertical or horizontal, if needed. I’ve often done that.

Usually,  I try to include  my 3 directional lines within the image where possible though.