WHAT GENRE IS YOUR BOOK?

Published July 3, 2017 by Gail Daley

The first question asked when a writer sends a manuscript to an agent, a publisher or a self publishing site, is “What genre is it?” Several Years ago, I wrote a blog defining the many Art Genres. This year, I decided to try the same with writing. I searched the internet and pulled up most of these definitions from Wikipedia, and various other internet sources who defined writing genre. It is by no means a comprehensive list, but it might help my fellow writers when asked by a publisher to define the genre of the book they have just written. There is an enormous amount of information about book genres, so I will be presenting these blogs genre by genre over the next few weeks. I limited myself to fiction. I may do a similar chart for non-fiction later though. I got the idea for the chart from a Facebook post, but I made some changes and additions to what was there. Please feel free to share or add to it.

HOW CAN I CLASSIFY MY ROMANCE BOOK?

The first time I was asked about the heat level in my story by a self publishing site, I had no idea what they were talking about, so I put the question into my search engines and came up with these definitions.

WHAT IS MEANT BY HEAT LEVEL?

When classifying a Romance Novel for publishing, the writer is often also required to define the Heat Level in the Novel. The Heat Level refers to the intensity of the romantic scenes in the novel and can be applied to all romance genres. These Heat Definitions were borrowed from the RomCon Romance Heat Scale:

None:  Sensuality is not the focus of the book. There may be very mild profanity or mild violence (two boys on a playground have a shoving match). (e.g., Young Adult, Family Sagas), but nothing graphic, and the story lines are more plot driven.

Sweet: The romance deals with the emotional aspects of love rather than the physical. No sex or scenes of physical intimacy except kissing. No profanity. No graphic violence. (e.g., Christian Fiction, Sweet Romance, Young Adult Romance.)

Mild: There may be mildly described scenes of intimacy. There may be mild profanity or violence.

Medium: Sometimes described as “Blush Level”, it is a little more than halfway between Sweet and Hot with more descriptive loves scenes and profanity than mild. There may be sex scenes or the preliminary action related to it. Scenes are usually not graphic and may contain euphemisms for sexual parts of the body are common. The emphasis is very much on feeling.

Hot: There usually are detailed sex scenes, profanity and/or graphic violence.  Authors who often write at this level of sensuality include Nora Roberts, Susan Wiggs, Rebecca York, Judith Arnold, Mary Balogh, Edith Layton, and Candace Camp.

Wild Ride/Erotica: There will be graphic sex scenes, including multiple partners and or alternate lifestyles. There may be explicit adult language and/or graphic violence. (e.g., Erotic Romance, High Fantasy, Thrillers…) Within RomCon®’s website, this is referred to as Erotic Romance. Be careful here; certain subject matters are still taboo (sex with children among others) and you will need to be specific in the reasons for your rating.

Blood Thirsty: Sensuality is not the focus of the book, but there will be graphic violence, bloody scenes, or horrific scenes with frightening or intense content. (e.g., Horror, Thrillers, some High Fantasy…), here again you need to be specific for the reason you gave the rating.

ROMANCE CATEGORIES

Paranormal Romanceis a subgenre of both romantic fiction and speculative fiction. Paranormal romance focuses on romantic love and includes elements beyond the range of scientific explanation, blending themes from the speculative fiction genres of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Paranormal romance can range from traditional category romances with a paranormal setting to stories where the main attention is on a science fiction or fantasy-based plot with a romantic subplot included. Common devices are romantic relationships between humans and vampires, shapeshifters, ghosts, and other entities of a fantastic or otherworldly nature. Beyond more common themes concern vampires, shapeshifters, ghosts, or time travel; paranormal romances can also include characters with psychic abilities, like telekinesis or telepathy. Paranormal romance has its roots in Gothic fiction, and are one of the fastest growing in the romance genre.

Contemporary Romance: is a subgenre of romance novels generally set after 1960. Contemporary is the largest of the romance novel subgenres, These novels are set in the time when they were written, and reflect the ideas and customs of their time. Heroines in contemporary romances written prior to 1970 usually quit working when they married or had children, while women in those written after 1970 may have and keep a career. As contemporary romance novels have grown to contain more complex plotting and more realistic characters, the line between this subgenre and the genre of women’s fiction or Chick Lit has blurred. Most contemporary romance novels do contain elements that date the books, so eventually the story lines become inappropriate to more modern readers and go out of print. Contemporary writers like Elsie Lee and Emilie Loring come to mind. Some books do make the transition into Historical romance, but not many.

Historical Romance:  is a broad category of fiction where the story takes place in a setting located in the past. Settings in this category will run the gamut from 1960 back into caveman times. Walter Scott helped popularize this genre in the early 19th-century, with works such as Rob Roy and Ivanhoe.  More recently author Jean Aeul’s Caveman series and Roberta Gellis’ books have been on the best seller list. Historical romances continue to be published, and notable recent examples are Conqueror by Georgette Heyer, or the Roselynde Chronicles by Roberta Gellis.

Western Romance: These books are set in America or Australia or in a contemporary or historical western setting (western United States, Canadian prairies or Australian outback), with a female lead. Readers expect the story to include horses, cowboys and a simpler way of life (but not a simpler plot). Think Joanna Lindsay or Willa Cather. For more traditional male centered westerns consider Louis L’Amour and Luke Short. The traditional male centered westerns have more in common with straight adventure fiction than romance. Women are usually secondary characters and have little or no part of the main action. Westerns are most noted for their clear lines of good and evil.

Gothic Romance: Combines romance and horror and may involve a mystery of some type. It has a long tradition, going back to the Regency/Victorian era.   Made popular by Jane Austin and others, Gothic fiction, which is widely known by the subgenre of Gothic horror, is a genre that combines fiction, horror, death, and at times romance. Its origin is attributed to English author Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto, subtitled (in its second edition) “A Gothic Story”. Gothic fiction creates a pleasing sense of terror; literary pleasures that were relatively new at the time of Walpole’s novel. The genre originated in England in the second half of the 18th century and had much success in the 19th as witnessed by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Another well known novel in this genre, dating from the late Victorian era, is Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Regency Romance: Regency romances are a distinct genre with their own plot and stylistic conventions. These derive from the 19th-century contemporary works of Georgette Heyer, who still dominates the genre. She wrote over two dozen novels set in the Regency starting in 1935 until her death in 1974. The more traditional Regencies feature much intelligent, fast-paced dialog between the leads and very little explicit sex or discussion of sex. The plot contrivances that can be found range from Marriages of convenience and false engagements to mistaken identities. Class differences are clearly defined and create barriers. (The son of the house never marries the maid for instance).

Romantic Suspense: The most plot driven of the romance genres, Romantic Suspense generally has a strong woman as the Main Character involved in a dangerous situation. The male hero usually starts out looking like the bad guy but turns out to be good, and the heroine often must make a choice between him and another man who may turn out to be the bad guy (or not). The setting for these books can be anywhen from deep in the past to contemporary. Think Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt or Barbara Michaels.

WHAT GENRE IS YOUR BOOK?

Published June 26, 2017 by Gail Daley

The first question asked when a writer sends a manuscript to an agent, a publisher or a self publishing site, is “What genre is it?” Several Years ago, I wrote a blog defining the many Art Genres. This year, I decided to try the same with writing. I searched the internet and pulled up most of these definitions from Wikipedia, and various other internet sources who defined writing genre. It is by no means a comprehensive list, but it might help my fellow writers when asked by a publisher to define the genre of the book they have just written. There is an enormous amount of information about book genres, so I will be presenting these blogs genre by genre over the next few weeks. I limited myself to fiction. I may do a similar chart for non-fiction later though. I got the idea for the chart from a Facebook post, but I made some changes and additions to what was there. Please feel free to share or add to it.

WHAT IS A MYSTERY?

Mystery fiction is a genre usually involving a mysterious death or a crime to be solved. In a closed circle of suspects, each suspect must have a credible motive and a reasonable opportunity for committing the crime. Early pulp magazines carried conventional hard-boiled crime fiction. The first use of “mystery” in this sense was by Dime Mystery, which started out as an ordinary crime fiction magazine but switched to “weird menace” during the latter part of 1933. Mystery stories published before 1950 sometimes involved a supernatural mystery where the solution did not have to be logical, and even no crime was involved. This was common in the pulp magazines of the 1930s and 1940s, where titles such as Dime Mystery, Thrilling Mystery and Spicy Mystery offered what were described as “weird menace” stories—supernatural horror in the vein of Grand Guignol. Most of this type of fiction has now shifted over into the subgenres of “Paranormal Mystery and Supernatural Thriller”.

General Mystery: Mystery fiction is a genre of fiction commonly involving a mysterious death or a crime to be solved. The central character may be police or an amateur detective who eventually solves the mystery by logical deduction from facts fairly presented to the reader. Sometimes mystery books are nonfictional. “Mystery fiction” can be detective stories in which the emphasis is on the puzzle or suspense element and its logical solution such as a whodunit. Mystery fiction can be contrasted with hard-boiled detective stories, which focus on action and gritty realism.

Non-Fiction Mystery: Non-Fiction mystery recounts real-life mysteries or historical crimes committed. Usually the crime remains unsolved and the reader is presented with the clues available and given the opportunity to try to figure out the solution or the author presents his/her own solution. The Black Dalia, and the disappearance of the England’s Crown Princes in the reign of Richard III are famous examples of this type of mystery.

Detective Fiction: Surprisingly, this one was very difficult to find a definition for (either that or Google was feeling off that day). In any case Detective fiction is a mystery with a dectective as a protagonist; either an amatuer, a private eye or a police officer who must solve a mystery. This is a very broad definiation, however there are differences in how the mystery and the characters are handled, as can be seen by the narrower definitions below. The mystery can be a death, a missing person, a robbery or almost any type of mysterious event. The MC must have a compelling reason to solve the crime.

Noir/Hard Boiled: Noir fiction is a literary genre closely related to the hard-boiled detective genre except that the lead character is not a detective, but instead either a victim, a suspect, or a perpetrator. Other common characteristics include the self-destructive qualities of the lead character. A typical protagonist of noir fiction is dealing with the legal, political or other system that is no less corrupt than the perpetrator by whom the protagonist is either victimized and/or must victimize others daily, leading to lose-lose situation.

Cozy Mystery: Cozy mysteries, also referred to as “cozies”, are a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are played down or treated with humor and the crime and detection takes place in a small, socially intimate community. The term was first coined in the late 20th century when various writers attempted to re-create the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.

Police Procedural: The police procedural, or police crime drama, is a subgenre of detective fiction that attempts to depict the activities of a police force as they investigate crimes.  Traditional detective novels usually concentrate on a single crime.  Police procedurals frequently describe investigations into several unrelated crimes in a single story. Traditional mysteries usually adhere to the convention of having the criminal’s identity concealed until the climax (the so-called whodunit); in police procedurals, the perpetrator’s identity is often known to the audience from the outset (this is referred to as the inverted detective story). Police procedurals describe several police-related topics such as forensics, autopsies, the gathering of evidence, the use of search warrants, and interrogation.

Hobby Mystery: See Cozy Mystery. This is merely a specialized sub genre of Cozy mysteries. The story usually centers around the main character’s hobby, such as quilting or animals.

Historical Mystery: The historical mystery or historical whodunit is a subgenre of two other genres, historical fiction and mystery fiction. These works are set in a time usually before 1960 and the central plot involves the solving of a mystery or crime (usually murder). Though works combining these genres have existed since at least the early 20th century, many credit Ellis Peters’s Cadfael Chronicles (1977-1994) for making popular what would become known as the historical mystery. The increasing prevalence of this kind of fiction in succeeding decades spawned a distinct subgenre.

Paranormal Mystery:  Sometimes the things in a mystery just can’t be explained. That’s where the paranormal mystery comes into play. These books have an element of supernatural in them, that can include magic, witches, skeletons or ghosts, and it can include werewolves, vampires, and other creatures. The difference between paranormal and fantasy is Paranormal concerns events or experiences not subject to scientific explanation or outside the ability of science to measure or explain. ESP, ghosts and other phenomenon fit this definition. Fantasy is a genre using magic or other supernatural phenomena as a primary element of the plot or setting. (Think Barbara Michaels ” or Harry Dresdin).

FRAMING ON A BUDGET—PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

Published June 19, 2017 by Gail Daley

By the Practical Artist

http://www.thepracticalartist.com/the-practical-artists-blog.php

Framing fine art can enhance the overall appeal of a piece of artwork. The drawback is if you don’t frame your art wisely it can ultimately ruin the paintings appeal altogether. Choosing the right frame for the right art looks simple, right? Step one is choosing the right type of frame. Wood or Metal? Wide or Narrow? The most important rule is to make sure the frame you choose doesn’t clash or overpower your art. A too-small frame around a large painting or a large frame around  a small artwork can overpower it and ruin the presentation. So first consider what type of art you will be framing and decide what type of frame will make the best presentation of your art. When choosing a frame it may be helpful to take the art with you and put it behind the frame choices. Ask yourself, what is the first thing you notice about the painting? Is it the art or the frame? If it is the frame, then you should consider selecting a different frame. If it isn’t practical to bring the art with you because of the size, you are going to have to use some imagination. Personally, I have found that the simpler the frame, the more attention is drawn to the art. There is a wide variety of ways out there to frame photos and other art. It may be a good idea to assess putting your art into a frame with as much consideration as you took with the actual painting. After all, your painting and its frame are going to be spending a long time together, so it is important to make sure they are a good match.

Types Of Frames: Frames loosely fall into three categories: traditional (often wood frames with some embellishment such as ornate carving, Oriental accents, appliqué curlicues, or canvas or linen inserts), modern (metal or ultra-plain wood, perhaps only a sliver of it showing as you face the picture) and transitional (minimal ornamentation with a moderate amount of frame showing on its face). Frames designed for canvas (oils or acrylics) usually have a linen mat and then a small wooden piece rounding off the inside frame, although some more modern frames have dispensed with this feature. Metal frames with glass or plexi-glass and a thick paper mat are generally used with watercolors or pastels. A word of warning here: most pastel artists prefer not to use plexi-glass because static electricity is picked up from it and the pastel chalk may be attracted away from the paper and onto the plexi-glass. Don’t underestimate a good frame; I have assisted at many art shows and I can’t remember how many times I overheard a judge say “The art is good, but that frame just (ruins, overpowers, clashes, etc.) it. Framing and matting should enhance and compliment your art. Have you seen the effect an ornate baroque frame on an abstract painting? Or maybe a steel frame on a lovely still life or floral caught your eye? Not Pretty was it.

Matting: The correct mat can enhance the appearance of a frame, hence your art. While some modern frames or Plein Aire frames come without mats, traditionally most art frames include some type of mat. A simple rule for choosing a mat is, do you like the look of it around your art. Usually, you want to select a lighter tone or neutral color than the dominant color in your art. You can look for a paler version of a color that is within the painting itself. If the mat color is too dark or too busy with designs, it will overshadow the image and detract from the art. Check the proportions of the mat to your art. If your framed art looks off, then your mat maybe either too big or too small. Black mats can be powerful, but be careful. They are so dark they will overpower most art.

The back can be as important as the front in an art show. I once saw a judge reject a lovely piece of art because she didn’t like the way the frame appeared on the back! Very seldom is art left naked on the back. While the backs of Oils are sometimes not covered in order to allow the canvas to breathe (oils take a long time to dry), most framed paintings have a backing. The most commonly used material is acid free brown paper but more decorative types can be used.

Gallery Wrap Framing. Gallery wrap does not have a conventional frame; in fact the edges of the art are painted and left bare to the eye, sometimes giving a wraparound effect to the art. A gallery wrap canvas is stapled on the back of the stretcher bars so the staples can’t be seen. Historically gallery wrap has had a wider edge than regular canvas (1-1/2” to 2” wide). Some confusion has arisen recently because art stores have begun selling canvas that is ¾’ wide and calling it gallery wrap since it is stapled on the back and not on the sides. FYI here, most commercial stores no longer sell any canvases stapled on the side. Be warned about this type of “gallery wrap”: many art shows and galleries do not consider this “true” gallery wrap and will not accept them into a show or gallery unframed. Another type of Gallery Wrap is not canvas but clayboard, ampersand board or gesso board. These also come in the 1-1/2” to 2” wide varieties called “deep cradle”, and can be painted around the edges and so considered gallery wrap. Typically this type of Gallery Wrap can also less expensive than some canvas sizes and so preferred by artists on a limited budget.

Gallery wrap is a preferred arrangement with certain types of art where frames would detract from the presentation, such as triptychs (three paintings presented as one) or multiple pieces of art that must be presented as a unit.

Showing Professionally. If you are planning to enter your work in art shows you can run into pitfalls with poor framing or the system used to hang your work. Hardware and art stores sell a wide variety of systems to hang art and while they will all work in a home setting, some of them are not suited to venues where there is a lot of public traffic. Most art shows have very specific framing dos and don’ts about how art is to be hung and they will only accept art that meets these standards. The following is typical:  Flat hangers only, no Saw-tooth, eyelet hangers or quick frames and no screw eyes. The ends of the wire must be taped or sleeved.  Screws for hanging must be no more than 4” inches from the top of the frame and the wire must not show over the top of the frame. Some shows and Galleries will accept the wide edge Gallery Wrap, some will not.

Art for The Home or Décor Market: Keep in mind also that framing art to go in the home or office as a decorator accent is not the same as show presentation. In show presentation, if the judge notices the mat before the art you may be in trouble. In the decorator market, you want a frame and mat to go with the style and colors chosen by the decorator for the room. Often, the decorator will pick the mat and frame to go with or compliment the colors in the room, not necessarily the painting.

Using Celebrities As Art Subjects

Published March 20, 2017 by Gail Daley

The Practical Artist’s Blog

http://www.thepracticalartist.com/the-practical-artists-blog.php

Have you ever been tempted to include a celebrity portrait in your art portfolio? Say you are entering a theme show and there is a celebrity whose very image just screams “I am this theme” i.e. General Patton or Pappy Boynton for WWII, Clint Eastwood or John Wayne for western art, Mohammed Ali, or an Olympic swim star for a sports theme, etc.? Well if you do use a celebrity without gaining the proper permissions, you could be sued for copyright violations under something called “the right of publicity” laws.

I became curious about this when a young artist used a drawing of a western icon as an entry in a local art show. I remembered reading about the case of a company being sued when they used President Obama’s image advertising a product on their billboard. I did some on-line investigating and found some interesting information. I discovered that public figures could actually copyright their image under some state copyright laws. This was especially informative to me because I had always thought that copyright was a federal law, not a state one. In my research, I discovered that both are true. In other words, you have federal copyright laws and the states can make additions to these laws that could affect us as visual artists. Copyright law may also vary from Country to Country.

What exactly are the rights copyright concerning publicity laws in regards to public figures? Public figures include politicians, celebrities, and any other person who has put themselves in the public spotlight or has greater than normal access to the media.

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personality_rights, defines these laws, as “The right of publicity, often called personality rights, is the right of an individual to control the commercial use of his or her name, image, likeness, or other unequivocal aspects of one’s identity. It is generally considered a property right as opposed to a personal right, and as such, the validity of the Right of Publicity can survive the death of the individual (to varying degrees depending on the jurisdiction). In the United States, the Right of Publicity is a state law based right, as opposed to federal based right, and recognition of the right can vary from state to state. The Celebrities Rights Act was passed in California in 1985 and it extended the personality rights for a celebrity to 70 years after their death.” There are other portions of California’s privacy laws to protect non-celebrity individuals but they not the subject of this blog and may be covered later.

Further reading tells me that even if your artistic source matter is a photograph taken by you of the celebrity or public figure in question, you might still be liable for violation of the right of publicity act if you invaded the privacy of the person in question to obtain the reference photo. An individual’s right of privacy or publicity is infringed when their name, voice, signature, photograph or likeness appears in a work of art and (a) can clearly be recognized as the subject shown in the work, (2) the subject has not consented to their image being used, and (3) the circumstances under which the photo was taken fit one of the following scenarios. Invading the subject’s privacy by encroaching into their private affairs. This covers events occurring in private or semi-private places: i.e. someone’s home or an invitation only event. Invading the subject’s privacy by the public disclosure of embarrassing facts not generally known. For instance if you take a photograph of a celebrity and then use the photo to paint them in the nude, or publish a photo of them embracing someone not their spouse this might be construed as being invasion of privacy. Invading the subject’s privacy by commercial appropriation. Using President Obama’s image to sell a product on the billboard was a clear example of this type of invasion.

Now I am not a lawyer, but common sense tells me why take the chance? Even if you win, a lawsuit is expensive and time-wasting and just being dragged into court over something like this could damage your reputation as an artist. If you would like more information on this subject, there are several good sites on the internet.

 

http://www.avvo.com/legal-answers/can-i-sell-my-own-artwork-depicting-a-celebrity–435063.html

This is a Case out of New York State concerning a sculpture using Cheryl Teigs legs in a sculpture. Recent verdicts expand artists’ rights in celebrity depiction …

http://www.owe.com/resources/legalities/7-issues-regarding-use-someones-likeness/

 

What is Oil Painting?

Published March 13, 2017 by Gail Daley

From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia

Oil painting is the process of painting with pigments with a medium of drying oil as the binder. Commonly used drying oils include linseed oil, poppy seed oil, walnut oil, and safflower oil. The choice of oil imparts a range of properties to the oil paint, such as the amount of yellowing or drying time. Certain differences, depending on the oil, are also visible in the sheen of the paints. An artist might use several different oils in the same painting depending on specific pigments and effects desired. The paints themselves also develop a particular consistency depending on the medium. The oil may be boiled with a resin, such as pine resin or frankincense, to create a varnish prized for its body and gloss.

Although oil paint was first used for Buddhist paintings by Indian and Chinese painters in western Afghanistan sometime between the fifth and tenth centuries,[1] it did not gain popularity until the 15th century. Its practice may have migrated westward during the Middle Ages. Oil paint eventually became the principal medium used for creating artworks as its advantages became widely known. The transition began with Early Netherlandish painting in Northern Europe, and by the height of the Renaissance oil painting techniques had almost completely replaced the use of tempera paints in the majority of Europe.

In recent years, water miscible oil paint has come to prominence and, to some extent, replaced traditional oil paint. Water-soluble paints contain an emulsifier that allows them to be thinned with water rather than paint thinner, and allows very fast drying times (1–3 days) when compared with traditional oils (1–3 weeks)

Traditional oil painting techniques often begin with the artist sketching the subject onto the canvas with charcoal or thinned paint. Oil paint is usually mixed with linseed oil, artist grade mineral spirits, or other solvents to make the paint thinner, faster or slower-drying. (Because these solvents thin the oil in the paint, they can also be used to clean paint brushes.) A basic rule of oil paint application is ‘fat over lean‘. This means that each additional layer of paint should contain more oil than the layer below to allow proper drying. If each additional layer contains less oil, the final painting will crack and peel. This rule does not ensure permanence; it is the quality and type of oil that leads to a strong and stable paint film. There are many other media that can be used with the oil, including cold wax, resins, and varnishes. These additional media can aid the painter in adjusting the translucency of the paint, the sheen of the paint, the density or ‘body’ of the paint, and the ability of the paint to hold or conceal the brushstroke. These aspects of the paint are closely related to the expressive capacity of oil paint.

Traditionally, paint was transferred to the painting surface using paintbrushes, but there are other methods, including using palette knives and rags. Oil paint remains wet longer than many other types of artists’ materials, enabling the artist to change the color, texture or form of the figure. At times, the painter might even remove an entire layer of paint and begin anew. This can be done with a rag and some turpentine for a time while the paint is wet, but after a while the hardened layer must be scraped. Oil paint dries by oxidation, not evaporation, and is usually dry to the touch within a span of two weeks (some colors dry within days). It is generally dry enough to be varnished in six months to a year. Art conservators do not consider an oil painting completely dry until it is 60 to 80 years old.[citation needed]

History

lthough the history of tempera (pigment mixed with either egg whites or egg yolks, then painted on a plastered section) and related media in Europe indicates that oil painting was discovered there independently, there is evidence that oil painting was used earlier in Afghanistan.[2][3][4][5] Outdoor surfaces and surfaces like shields—both those used in tournaments and those hung as decorations—were more durable when painted in oil-based media than when painted in the traditional tempera paints.

Most Renaissance sources, in particular Vasari, credited northern European painters of the 15th century, and Jan van Eyck in particular, with the “invention” of painting with oil media on wood panel supports (“support” is the technical term for the underlying backing of a painting). However, Theophilus (Roger of Helmarshausen?) clearly gives instructions for oil-based painting in his treatise, On Various Arts, written in 1125. At this period, it was probably used for painting sculptures, carvings and wood fittings, perhaps especially for outdoor use. However, early Netherlandish painting in the 15th century was the first to make oil the usual painting medium, and explore the use of layers and glazes, followed by the rest of Northern Europe, and only then Italy.

Early works were still panel paintings on wood, but around the end of the 15th century canvas became more popular as the support, as it was cheaper, easier to transport, allowed larger works, and did not require complicated preliminary layers of gesso (a fine type of plaster). (This style was known as a fresco painting: applying gesso, then painting over with tempera paint) Venice, where sail-canvas was easily available, was a leader in the move to canvas. Small cabinet paintings were also made on metal, especially copper plates. These supports were more expensive but very firm, allowing intricately fine detail. Often printing plates from printmaking were reused for this purpose. The popularity of oil spread through Italy from the North, starting in Venice in the late 15th century. By 1540, the previous method for painting on panel (tempera) had become all but extinct, although Italians continued to use fresco for wall paintings, which was less successful and durable in damper northern climates.

Brands of oil paint include: Winsor and Newton, Gamblin, Rembrandt, Lukas 1862, Lukas Studio, Old Holland, Michael Harding and Charvin. It is important that artists understand that not all oil colors are created equal. Many “student” brands on the market are really “hobby colors”. Water-soluble oil colors include: Winsor and Newton Artisan, Lukas Berlin and Woil water mixable oil colors.

Process

A traditional wood palette used to hold and mix small amounts of paint while working.

Oil paint is made by mixing pigments of colors with an oil medium. Different colors are made, or purchased premixed, before painting begins, but further shades of color are usually obtained by mixing small quantities together as the painting process is underway. An artist’s palette, traditionally a thin wood board held in the hand, is used for holding and mixing paints of different colors. Pigments may be any number of natural or synthetic substances with color, such as sulphur for yellow or cobalt for blue. Traditional pigments were based on minerals or plants, but many have proven unstable over long periods of time; the appearance of many old paintings today is very different from the original. Modern pigments often use synthetic chemicals. The pigment is mixed with oil, usually linseed, but other oils may be used. The various oils dry differently, which creates assorted effects.

Traditionally, artists mixed their own paints from raw pigments that they often ground themselves and medium. This made portability difficult and kept most painting activities confined to the studio. This changed in the 1800s, when tubes of oil paint became widely available following the American portrait painter John Goffe Rand‘s invention of the squeezable or collapsible metal tube in 1841 (the year of Claude Monet‘s birth). Artists could mix colors quickly and easily, which enabled, for the first time, relatively convenient plein air painting (a common approach in French Impressionism).

A brush is most commonly employed by the artist to apply the paint, often over a sketched outline of their subject (which could be in another medium). Brushes are made from a variety of fibers to create different effects. For example, brushes made with hog bristle might be used for bolder strokes and impasto textures. Fitch hair and mongoose hair brushes are fine and smooth, and thus answer well for portraits and detail work. Even more expensive are red sable brushes (weasel hair). The finest quality brushes are called “kolinsky sable“; these brush fibers are taken from the tail of the Siberian weasel. This hair keeps a superfine point, has smooth handling, and good memory (it returns to its original point when lifted off the canvas), known to artists as a brush’s “snap.” Floppy fibers with no snap, such as squirrel hair, are generally not used by oil painters.

In the past few decades, many synthetic brushes have been marketed. These are very durable and can be quite good, as well as cost efficient. Brushes come in many sizes and are used for different purposes. The type of brush also makes a difference. For example, a “round” is a pointed brush used for detail work. “Flat” brushes are used to apply broad swaths of color. “Bright” is a flat brush with shorter brush hairs. “Filbert” is a flat brush with rounded corners. “Egbert” is a very long, and rare, filbert brush. The artist might also apply paint with a palette knife, which is a flat metal blade. A palette knife may also be used to remove paint from the canvas when necessary. A variety of unconventional tools, such as rags, sponges, and cotton swabs, may be used to apply or remove paint. Some artists even paint with their fingers.

Most oil painters paint in layers known as “glazes”, a method also simply called “indirect painting”. This method was first perfected through an adaptation of the egg tempera painting technique, and was applied by the Flemish painters in Northern Europe with pigments ground in linseed oil. More recently, this approach has been called the “mixed technique” or “mixed method”. The first coat (the underpainting) is laid down, often painted with egg tempera or turpentine-thinned paint. This layer helps to “tone” the canvas and to cover the white of the gesso. Many artists use this layer to sketch out the composition. This first layer can be adjusted before proceeding further, an advantage over the “cartooning” method used in Fresco technique. After this layer dries, the artist might then proceed by painting a “mosaic” of color swatches, working from darkest to lightest. The borders of the colors are blended together when the “mosaic” is completed, and then left to dry before applying details.

Artists in later periods, such as the Impressionist era (late 19th century), often expanded on this wet-on-wet method, blending the wet paint on the canvas without following the Renaissance-era approach of layering and glazing. This method is also called “alla prima“. This method was created due to the advent of painting outdoors, instead of inside a studio, because while outside, an artist did not have the time to let each layer of paint dry before adding a new layer. Several contemporary artists use a combination of both techniques to add bold color (wet-on-wet) and obtain the depth of layers through glazing.

When the image is finished and has dried for up to a year, an artist often seals the work with a layer of varnish that is typically made from dammar gum crystals dissolved in turpentine. Such varnishes can be removed without disturbing the oil painting itself, to enable cleaning and conservation. Some contemporary artists decide not to varnish their work, preferring the surface unvarnished.

 

Eggs & Rabbits For Easter – How Did That Happen?

Published March 6, 2017 by Gail Daley

We live in the world so we can’t help being influenced by it. Do you find yourself painting seasonally? By this, I mean are you inspired in the spring to paint flowers or using an amber themed pallet in the fall. Since it is getting close to Easter, I thought I would include some information about traditional ‘Easter Art’. Most of the “Easter Art” I found when I researched this blog was of two varieties. The old masters of course painted images of Jesus and the Resurrection. This is not surprising when you consider that a lot of art back then was commissioned by the Church. The card industry has been trying to establish the idea of sending cards for Easter for years. Vintage Cards usually had Angels, Easter Bunnies or kittens (when did they arrive in Easter traditions?), huge eggs and sometimes chickens. Like the kittens, I suspect they were included for their “cuteness” not because they are traditional subjects for Easter. Easter traditions are long and varied; on the one hand, we have the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Christian), Passover (Jewish), and the Spring Equinox (Pagan). Many families only attend services on Easter Sunday (Oh, excuse me the new PC is “Resurrection Sunday”). The new PC form is an attempt by Christianity to distance itself from Easter’s pagan roots. When it was first being established, Christianity found it expedient to co-opt some pagan celebrations and incorporate them into the new religion. Traditionally Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon, very close to the Spring Equinox. In old Europe, the prevailing spring festival was a Saxon fertility celebration in honor of the Goddess Eastre, (earlier spelling was Eostre, derived from the Saxons’ Germanic heritage) a Teutonic goddess of dawn, spring and fertility, whose sacred animal was a hare. The hare is often associated with moon goddesses; the egg and the haer (old spelling) together represent the god and the goddess, respectively. Pagan fertility festivals at the time of the spring equinox were common—it was believed that at this time, male and female energies were balanced. One of the main reasons the new Christian religion disapproved of the spring equinox celebration so much was the belief (not entirely unfounded) that it encouraged a freewheeling orgy.

Colored eggs, which we also associate with Easter, are of an even more ancient origin; eggs have been symbols of rebirth and fertility for so long no one can say when this tradition began. So where did modern traditions come up with the idea of a rabbit who brings eggs? There is a myth that says the goddess Eostre was passing through a forest one winter and found a bird dying in snow from hunger and cold. In pity, she turned the bird into a hare because hares have warm fur and can supposedly find food more easily than birds. Poor science here, but it sounds nice; The rabbit survived the winter and when spring came, it laid eggs because it used to be a bird (obviously, the change had been only skin deep). The appreciative Rabbit then decorated the eggs it laid as a sign of gratitude to Eostre. German settlers in Pennsylvania brought the tradition of seeking decorated Easter eggs with them to America and the Easter Egg Hunt was born.

Like Thanksgiving and Christmas, Easter has its traditional food; Ham, special breads, and of course Chocolate. Easter egg hunts were fun as a child, but I do remember that my mother refused to allow us to eat the eggs because they usually had been lying out unrefrigerated and she was afraid of food poisoning. It’s no wonder really that merchants keyed in on these fears and decided that Easter was an untapped gold mine (gold foil that is). They began wrapping chocolate bunnies and eggs in colorful wrappings and the Cadbury Easter Bunny was born. The toy makers couldn’t let this slide of course so they began marketing plastic eggs that could be stuffed with other candy and Easter baskets with toys. There is also the Easter Parade held in almost every town. Then of course, there is the fabled Easter Bonnet. As a child, I always got a frilly hat and a new dress for Easter, which was dutifully worn, to the family get-together on Sunday afternoon.

 

All these items are infinitely usable as subjects for art; food such as eggs, ham, chocolate bunnies make good still life set-ups. If you are into figure are, children hunting Easter Eggs make a great subject. Or if you really want to get into the theme, there is always the resurrection or spring equinox as subjects.

Is Your Work Ready For A Gallery?

Published February 23, 2017 by Gail Daley

A great many artistically talented people are discouraged from pursuing an art career because agents and gallery owners won’t consider their work. In many cases, this lack of interest on the part of galleries is not because the art is bad, but to the work being poorly prepared for showing on a professional level. Most Art Associations attempt to help teach beginning artists how to frame their art for art shows and presentation to galleries. This helps beginners learn how to prepare their work to be shown at a professional level.  Most groups have learned the easist, fastest way to teach this is by setting framing standards for their own shows.

Framing fine art can enhance the overall appeal of a piece of artwork. The drawback is if you don’t frame your art wisely it can ultimately ruin the paintings appeal altogether. Choosing the right frame for the right art looks simple, right? Step one is choosing the right type of frame. Wood or Metal? Wide or Narrow? The most important rule is to make sure the frame you choose doesn’t clash or overpower your art. A too-small frame around a large painting or a large frame around a small artwork can overpower it and ruin the presentation. So first, consider what type of art you will be framing and decide what type of frame will make the best presentation of your art. When choosing a frame it may be helpful to take the art with you and put it behind the frame choices. Ask yourself, what is the first thing you notice about the painting? Is it the art or the frame? If it is the frame, then you should consider selecting a different frame. If it isn’t practical to bring the art with you because of the size, you are going to have to use some imagination. Personally, I have found that the simpler the frame, the more attention is drawn to the art. There is a wide variety of ways out there to frame paintings, photos and other art. It may be a good idea to assess putting your art into a frame with as much consideration as you took with the actual painting. After all, your painting and its frame are going to be spending a long time together, so it is important to make sure they are a good match.

The back can be as important as the front in an art show. I once saw a judge reject a lovely piece of art because she didn’t like the way the frame appeared on the back! Very seldom is art left naked on the reverse side. While the backs of Oils are sometimes not covered in order to allow the canvas to breathe (oils take a long time to dry), most framed paintings have a backing. The most commonly used material is acid free brown paper but more decorative types can be used.

Gallery Wrap Framing. Gallery wrap does not have a conventional frame; in fact, the edges of the art are painted and left bare to the eye, sometimes giving a wraparound effect to the art. A gallery wrap canvas is stapled on the back of the stretcher bars so the staples can’t be seen. Historically gallery wrap has had a wider edge than regular canvas (1-1/2” to 2” wide). Some confusion has arisen recently because art stores have begun selling canvas that is ¾’ wide and calling it gallery wrap since it is stapled on the back and not on the sides. FYI here, most commercial stores no longer sell any canvases stapled on the side. Be warned about this type of “gallery wrap”: many art shows and galleries do not consider this “true” gallery wrap and will not accept them into a show or gallery unframed

If you are planning to enter your work in art shows, you can run into pitfalls with poor framing or the system used to hang your work. Hardware and art stores sell a wide variety of systems to hang art and while they will all work in a home setting, some of them are not suited to venues where there is a lot of public traffic. Most art shows have very specific framing dos and don’ts about how art is to be hung and they will only accept art that meets these standards.

Why are they so fussy? The principal reason is no one wants to be responsible for damage to your art. Typically sawtooth and quick frames are put in with tiny finish nails and are too fragile to hold a heavy painting for very long. Screw eyes extend backward and could potentially poke a hole in the standard or the wall where the art is hung if an accident causes the art to be bumped. If you follow the rules given below your art will probably not be knocked out of consideration because of the framing.

General Guidelines

All paintings should be framed; gallery wrap (1.5” to 2” wide on the edge) is acceptable. Frames should be in good repair and ready to hang. The art show director may set size and weight standards, so read the show prospectus carefully!

Use flat hangers with wires only, no Saw-tooth, eyelet hangers or quick frames and no screw eyes. The ends of the wire should be taped or sleeved.

Screws for hanging should be no more than 4” inches from the top of the frame and the wire should not show over the top of the frame.

All oils should be completely dry. Watercolor, Pastel, Drawing and some types of mixed media should be under glass or plexi-glass, unless larger than 24” x 28” and then plexi-glass is may be required.D

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