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A Grade 7 Student in Ontario Asked Me Three Questions for a School Project. Here is How I Answered Them.

1) I saw on your Bio that you used to do graphic art. What made you decide to focus on painting?

Graphic design was a great career for me, but I find I like to work on projects where I have all of the creative control, and towards the end of my graphic design career I found I was transitioning more in to web design, and then focussing on the programming side because I found it to be an easier and more lucrative service to provide.

I started painting again after many years as a hobby, but after selling several paintings, decided that was what I wanted to do full-time. I like painting much better than programming or graphic design, and my only regret is not trying a career as an artist sooner.

2) How do you make the water and the clouds look like they are moving?

Your second question doesn’t have a simple answer, but here are some key points:

When I am choosing a photograph to use as a reference, I look first for a good composition. I let my eye wander across the image, and try to remember the path it took. Good composition will keep the eye moving around the image, usually resolving to a focal point (often the sun in a sunset photo), and then falling off into the rest of the image again. If the composition is good, other graphic elements will persuade the eye through a windy path back to the focal point again.

Once I am painting, I try to remember those paths, and accentuate them using lines and boundaries in the elements of the painting.

3) How do you decide on the colors for your paintings? I noticed that a lot of your colors are very bright and contrasting, but they aren’t exactly how you would see in nature.

I try to use simple colours, and I limit the colours I work with to the three primaries (Yellow, Red, and Blue) and three secondaries (Orange, Violet, and Green). I use one colour for each of those, even though dozens of shades are available for each. Using saturated, simple colours to start with helps keep anything I mix with them from turning a muddy brown (unless that’s what I want!). I should note that in addition to those primary and secondary colours, I also use white, and a dark blue that is almost black, like Prussian Blue.

I try different colours on my paintings until I get something I like, more than something that reflects reality. I don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story. When I am painting, I think about how it felt rather than how it looked, and I try to choose colours that evoke that feeling.

I do however try to stay true to the composition in my photo. I think it’s important that I paint from real experiences rather than imagined ones, and I want the places I paint to be recognizable.

I also try to keep the values correct. The value of a colour is how light or dark it is. I want to make sure the order of things from light to dark is the same in my paintings as the photos I work from. A good measure for this is to take a black and white photo of the painting and see how it compares to the photo when it’s also changed to black and white. I try to keep the values similar, but when it comes to colour, I just go with what feels right.