Model in the Studio, wip

Newberry, Model in the Studio, wip, detail

Today’s Update: Model in Studio, I made a naughty schoolboy prank and a very bad Easter pun on a different meaning of risen. I cleaned up the upper left quadrant of the composition removing all the shapes that did not accent the symbolic verticals. Now they compete better for attention. I think that makes her even happier, the model said “yes.” Actually it took discipline to keep working the background until it worked for me, but there is no finer feeling for an artist to get that internal greenlighting saying “it’s working!” Hope this lightens your day.

Rebirth: Death and Life through Art

Mary Woodul, Espíritu Ascendente, charcoal on Rives BFK, 13x19"
Mary Woodul, Espíritu Ascendente, charcoal on Rives BFK, 13x19"
Mary Woodul, Espíritu Ascendente, charcoal on Rives BFK, 13×19″

Years ago a grandchild of a friend and student of mine died. The little girl wasn’t born right and was not destined to live past childhood. At that time Mary wanted to do a special project based on the little girl’s passing. I recall the concept started with a soft cloth with lace embroidery, and quickly a flower, an iris, was added. Mary drew 20 or so thumbnail sketches, tweaking each composition until she found the one that pleased her most.

Continue reading “Rebirth: Death and Life through Art”

A Little Greek Pastel Painting Trip by Michael Newberry

newberry-next-door-1988-pastel-on-paper-18x24

Years ago I took a pastel painting trip of a lifetime, for three months I traveled from Athens, Greece to many islands, eventually to Istanbul, and slowly back again to Athens. My first island was Tinos, from the harbor I rented a scooter, booked a tiny house outside of town for 15 dollars a night. The porch had a sloping view over gray-green olive groves down to the dark and brilliant ultramarine blue Mediterranean, about 300 ft to the left was a small, room-sized luminous white-plastered Byzantine church. 

My first day I loaded my backpack with my 200 piece pastel set, and packed several sheets of full-size pastel paper in my large portfolio bag, swung the bulky bags over my shoulder. Weighed down, I then swung my right leg over the scooter and the momentum carried me, the bags, and the scooter to crash to pavement. Laying painfully on my side, the pastels scattered on the ground, and with the scooter pinning me down I couldn’t get up. An elderly Greek woman dressed in black tending the church next door witnessed it all. And she kindly helped me get up through my blushing burn of embarrassment. Once I was upright she helped me collect the pastels. Not speaking any English, she took my arm to follow her to her favorite view of the church, and through hand gestures suggested that I draw it. 

Continue reading “A Little Greek Pastel Painting Trip by Michael Newberry”

5th Through 12th in the Animal Lifted Embargo Series by Michael Newberry

Newberry, Retriever, 2020, oil on panel, 9x12"

I worked till 6 am getting these ready to be signed. So far this week the series has 12 little paintings, the recent 7 here. The Animal Lifted Embargo Series has significantly changed my opinion about including animals in my paintings. They really help set off the scale and atmosphere of the landscapes. I am surprised that just two tiny marks, in the case of the sandpipers, can reset the landscapes dramatically.

If you click on the images in will take you to each painting’s page on my archive including the pricing. If you love one of them be sure to let me know and we can make owning it happen.

Michael Newberry, Idyllwild, 3/9/2020

Newberry, Seagull at Picnic Island, 2020, oil on panel, 12×16″

Newberry, Seagull at Picnic Island, 2020, oil on panel, 12x16"

Just signed, 2nd in my Animal Lifted Embargo Series

Newberry, Seagull at Picnic Island, 2020, oil on panel, 12x16"
Newberry, Seagull at Picnic Island, 2020, oil on panel, 12×16″

hahah, I am enjoying the animal lifted embargo. I can’t stand painting little people in landscapes, makes my skin crawl when I see other painters do it. I love plein air painting being outdoors in a beautiful place just painting what I see, it feels like channeling the universe’s energy. But all landscapes have abundant life seen and unseen. For instance, while painting this there was behind me a pelican ferociously nose-diving into the water to pinch fish. Its only this last week I lifted the embargo on painting animals–I kept thinking of those horrible paintings of animals dressed as humans playing billiards or smoking cigars around the poker table. Can you imagine the psychology of the person that sees themselves that way? “Don’t mind me I am just a pug dressed as a human.”

There is an exciting tension in placing an animal just right, it seems to set off the landscape and definitely twerks the composition, like a zigzag incorporating the direction of the light, the bird’s flight path, the feeling of “lift,” setting off the formal composition of the water and land masses. Delightfully fun.

Michael Newberry, Idyllwild, 3/5/2020

Doggie at the Beach and an Aesthetic Musing

Newberry, Doggie at the Beach, 2020, oil on panel, 9x12"
Newberry, Doggie at the Beach, 2020, oil on panel, 9x12"

Just finished this. Taking a little one week break, perhaps two, from painting on Model in the Studio, I am revisiting some small plein air paintings. A departure for me is that I painted in this dog into the landscape. Artistically I love what it did to the composition, creating a “<” axis from the highlighted glimmer to the dog, then to the bottom right corner. I also love the mood of it. In the past I have rejected doing animals because humanity is at the forefront of my mind. I love my dog, Frida, and she loves me, but she doesn’t even glance at my art. :(

Some very interesting aesthetic problems with philosophical implications are the size of the subject in relation to the canvas and what that subject is. I know this sounds highbrow but bear with me, or at least indulge me to share the kind of thing I think about when painting. Most of my definitive works feature humans and their size dominates the canvas–they feature prominently in the painting’s universe. Landscapes serve well as a back drop for human activity, or when it is just a landscape there is an implication that we as humans are looking at it through a window of our beautiful home, or a view from a hike, or day at the beach. Though, if you take a naked landscape literally, with no humans present, it could imply that humankind does not exist–a very interesting rabbit hole to go down. There are also the cases of massive landscapes with tiny itty-bitty people implying that humanity is insignificant to the awesomeness of the universe. But seriously, if there are no humans or aliens, the concept of a caring or meaningful existence simply wouldn’t exist. My conclusion is that humans are top dogs when it comes to the humanities and to our psychology.

Many friends have asked me if I have painted Frida, which so far is a “no.” I just can’t bring myself to do a dog portrait (though I did one as an 18-year old for a fraternity brother as a fine art major). It feels like I would be elevating them above humanity. But with this new mini series with smally painted animals accenting the comparatively larger landscapes, it definitely feels like a massive “YES!” It makes sense to me that animals figure in our universe but do not rise up to the stature of humanities uniqueness, which art, philosophy, language, politics, and spirituality matter. So it is official!–I have lifted the animal embargo and now feel free to paint animals as long as they are tiny enough not to upsurge humanity.

Michael Newberry, Idyllwild, 3/1/2020

Please feel free to share your thoughts on this, you must have some interesting ones.

Workshop Series: Composition!

Newberry Art Tutorials

Some Guidelines For Great Compositons

In my workshops students have plenty of time to compose the work, the line drawing set up before painting begins. The following tutorials show techniques you can focus on as you map out the painting’s composition.

Composition in One Easy Lesson

Van Gogh, demo
For demonstration a markup of Van Gogh’s bedroom in St. Remy. This was one of our wonderful locations in our 2019 Provence Art Experience Workshop, and might be on our itinerary in 2020.

The lesson in three words: Make interesting corners. In this tutorial I show how some of greatest artists of composition, Vermeer, Cezanne, Picasso, Van Gogh, Diebenkorn, and Velazquez make fascinating shapes and lighting in the corners. It is a very simple way to get the most out of your composition without having to remember a million rules!

Abstraction in Representational Art

My mark up of Rembrandt’s One Hundred Guilder Print, showing how he grouped light and shade into large abstract shapes incorporating several figures. Abstracting is handy way to organize a composition.

Though this tutorial is not strictly about composition it will be helpful to see how one can organize abstract shapes in a compositional way. Using Rembrandt, Kline, and Monet I show how they group things into broader abstract shapes. This is an extremely powerful technique that gives the viewer an epic journey through the big picture.

True Lies Warp Negative Space

A markup of a detail of one of Monet’s Cathedral paintings. The gray and dark gray stripes mark the darker, closer edge of the doorway’s shadow and the lighter, further away edge of the shadow. A very exciting and dramatic tool to breath passion into your work.

A very surreal artist’s perspective but indispensable to give life to your painting is accenting the negative spaces of things. I go into detail showing how Monet, Rembrandt, Vermeer, myself, and William Wray manipulate negative space to create a sense of movement in the painting. If you can take a few seconds, while composing, to check the negative spaces it will add tremendously to making a powerful painting.

Pushing the Composition Envelope, Melissa Hefferlin Still Lifes

A still life from Melissa Hefferlin, one of the greatest artists of composition alive today. Her biggest strength is balancing negative spaces.

This is a very helpful article on how Picasso and Hefferlin arrange their compositions, and how Melissa manages to do so in a realistic way.

When you are taking a workshop with me you don’t have to hold all this info in your head, that is my job, but it is good to read up on these tutorials. I hope you enjoy them and I guarantee you that adding them to your technique will feel great and raise your art up a few levels.

For more about studying with me please introduce yourself and your work via email, mtnewberry at gmail dot com.