Thursday, May 5, 2011

Notes from the Portrait Society of America, Continued

If you've ever met Bart Lindstrom or heard him speak, you'll probably agree with me in saying he's one of the funniest portrait artists in the business. There's nothing better than having a sense of humor about this profession, especially when times get hard. While Bart is great for a laugh, I have to say that he is an amazing professional who takes his work very seriously.

Here he is at the Face-Off demo from Thursday night:

And the finished painting:

On Friday afternoon, I had the privilege of hearing Bart's talk about "Creating Timeless Compositions." Here are some of my notes from this lecture:

- Composition is the foundation of your painting. We get impatient sometimes and just want to start throwing on paint. Just as it’s smart to carefully think through your plans when designing a house, so you should carefully compose your painting.

- A good composition is open to debate, but here are some general guidelines:

(1) Dividing the canvas in thirds and making one of the connection points your focal point location.

(2) Never put an important element at these points (see below).

- Pay attention! Orchestrate the composition.

- USE THUMBNAIL SKETCHES. Do lots, and make them small (postage stamp size). You should only see the lights and darks.

- ABSTRACT VALUE PATTERNS are what the image would look like if you broke it down into its most basic shapes and values. For example, Sargent's painting of the Windham Sisters, has an abstract value pattern of almost two squarish shapes: a dark square on top of a light square.

- Next step from the thumbnail sketch is a color study, no bigger than 4x6.

- When you put down a brush stroke, it must be right in 5 ways: it must be the right shape, be in the right place, be the right color, the right value, and have the right edges. What are we doing here? We are trying to see the end painting at the beginning. Always ask, “What is the abstract value pattern?

- The color study should be FAST. Use three primaries and three secondaries. 10-15 minutes. If you’re fast and relying on intuition, you’ll be using the right side of your brain and not being too picky / analytical.

- When it’s raw canvas, you’re painting, when it’s paint on paint, you’re blending.

- To determine a correct value, mix your color-value, brush some of it on a 3x5 card and hold it up to our subject and make sure it’s just right.

- Orchestrate your composition with value and then color. The goal is to get something you are excited about.

- Paint from a well of knowledge and decisions you’ve already made.

- Get busy and have more fun!

- Don’t take shortcuts. Put your painting at the very top of your priority list.

- Look at the abstract value patterns of other great artists – it’s okay to borrow these.

- Lack of attention / focus causes you to lose your best brushstrokes... those little gems that you may never get back if you're not careful to preserve them!

- Make a vision book of paintings you want to do. Paint like Roger Federer hits the tennis ball – with all his might and with the greatest of accuracy.


  1. Anna Rose, I attended the same presentation and I was so glad to see that you've posted the same points that I took home! We missed you at Hunting Gala, but it was very cool to think that I could have met you at the Texas breakfast.
    Congrats on your beautiful work!

  2. Hi Deborah, I think I might have been on the elevator at the same time as you at one point - I thought I recognized the name, but wasn't any rate, I'm sorry we didn't meet officially! We will have to plan a meet-and-greet here in Texas soon! :-)


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