DESIGNING WITH LIGHT by Beth Flor

NOAPS Signature Artist Beth Flor uses light patterns to create works that surpass the reality of photographs.

beth2I’ve been painting in the realistic tradition for over thirty years, but within that tradition my work has evolved and my goals have changed. The early years were spent learning, trying to replicate nature and acquiring knowledge of the painting process. A few too many “it looks almost like a photograph” comments gave me pause. Almost? Meaning not “realistic” enough? At the same time I also discovered the works of Dean Mitchell, Alex Powers, Richard Schmidt, and Burton Silverman. A diverse group, but two things all have in common are the strength of their composition beth 3and the fact that none of their paintings look like photos. Silverman’s people are so real they surpass photography. What is that extra quality that paintings can have beyond photography? Not “almost”, but surpassing. I want my work to be a reflection of reality that is like a pleasant memory, a poetic interpretation of everyday. By rendering the light on them I hope to transform what can be ordinary subject matter into objects of beauty.

I began painting still lifes because I can control and create compositions. The design structure can be simpler, and thus stronger. beth4I can also have the subject matter in front of me. Even when the light has altered this helps with both drawing and noting color changes in shadows and reflected lights. I paint only by natural light, so it illuminates not only my painting, but my subject matter. Although this can be frustrating as it changes, natural light has more nuance and subtlety than artificial light, and is therefore more interesting and unique. It often inspires new work as changing light will create entirely new shadows and patterns, and therefore a new design and painting. Light patterns have taken on a dominant importance in beth 5the structure and inspiration for my work. The light gives them a feeling of “transitoriness”, of time passing, and is also a major design element.

When I am thinking about a new painting, I look at shapes and patterns of tonal values; they should be strong to create design and carry simple subject matter, but also have some color variation. The shadow colors can be nuanced with many warm and cool shades, but it still should read as the same value. I do not have a “shadow color”; each painting has its own palette or color world. I unclutter beth 6compositions, reducing subject matter to the minimum that I feel can hold interest. I judge objects and their shadows as abstract shapes and often use small items such as bells, as balance or anchors for larger objects. Small objects also act as color accents. Cropped, close-up compositions can give a sense of mystery as to where the light is coming from.

I mentally go through the painting process before beginning. Some of this happens while I am drawing. I make decisions such as whether to start with the subject or beth 7background. Often it is a question of whether I wish to key the painting to the background colors or the subject. I try to anticipate problem areas, where it will be necessary to blend wet into wet, and where stopping points in the process may be. I decide what paint colors I will use. This process helps me get mentally focused to paint.

To avoid reworking I aim for correctness from the beginning of the painting process. This method can produce a freshness and clarity of color that other methods lack. At the same time, I work knowing I can add glazes that will enrich color and darken values. I observe the “fat beth8over lean” rule, meaning the upper layer of paint contains more oil than the first layer. Sometimes the lightest highlights are almost straight from the tube. Other times I work like a watercolorist, using a thin wash for a light area and lifting out highlights with a rag or brush, using thicker paint for the darker values. In the demonstration the golden area is thinner than the dark shadows. You must use transparent colors and no white for this to work.

Learning the craft of painting ultimately gives the artist freedom. When you know the technical aspects, when mixing and applying paint is beth9intuitive, then you can paint and express what you wish. The natural evolution of this will be the development of your own style. My advice to young painters is not to try to force a style. It can seem contrived and if you are successful you may find yourself trapped in an identity that is not genuine. A personal style will develop naturally with work and learning, which is a constant endeavor for an artist.

ABOUT THE ARTIST,
BETH FLOR

Beth Flor earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Colorado in 1972. She moved to the Southeast Alaska town of Petersburg with her husband in 1974. As her children grew older she began entering juried exhibitions and has been accepted in over fifty national juried exhibitions since 1995. Her work hangs in private collections across the country. Beth became a Signature member of the National Oil and Acrylic Painters’ Society in 1999 and a fellow of the American Artist’s Professional League in 2000. Her most notable exhibits include the International Museum of Contemporary Masters of Fine Arts Salon, the Butler Institute of American Art Exhibition, Figuratively Speaking” at the American Academy of Art, Chicago, the Illinois Institute of Art 2005, and the Cooperstown Nationals.

She has received numerous awards, including 3rd Prize from the International Artist Magazine Still Life and Floral Challenge No. 29,  the Grand Price at the Cooperstown 68th National, and Best Still Life from NOAPS 2003. Her work has been included in several books and publications including International Artists “How Did You Paint That?” 100 Artists Paint still Lifes and Florals, vol.I and II. She can be contacted at bethflorfineart@yahoo.com

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