Welcome to the PleinAir Podcast with Eric Rhoads. In this episode Eric interviews watercolor artist Brienne Brown on painting outdoors, framing watercolors, and much more.
Listen as Brienne Brown shares the following:
• The importance of making art a priority in life, and having the support system to do so
• Her thoughts on framing watercolor paintings behind glass, why she doesn’t, and the logistics involved
• The setup she uses for painting with watercolor en plein air
• General principles of painting for those who are new to it
“If you want to plein air paint to get out, just get out and start doing it,” Brown says. “I think it’s such a wonderful pastime. It’s good for your work it you can learn so much and it’s fun.”
Bonus! Eric Rhoads, author of Make More Money Selling Your Art, shares how to know if your website is up to par in order to effectively sell your art, and understanding why collectors might pass on your work even when they compliment it – in this week’s Art Marketing Minute.
Listen to the PleinAir Podcast with Eric Rhoads and Brienne Brown here:
– Brienne Brown online: https://www.briennembrown.com/
– Eric Rhoads on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ericrhoads/
– Eric Rhoads on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eric.rhoads
– Sunday Coffee: https://coffeewitheric.com/
– Plein Air Salon: https://pleinairsalon.com/
– Value Specs for Artists: https://streamlineartvideo.com/products/paint-by-note-red-glasses
– Paint by Note: https://paintbynote.com/
– The Great Outdoor Painting Challenge TV Show: https://thegreatoutdoorpaintingchallenge.com/casting-call
FULL TRANSCRIPT of this PleinAir Podcast
DISCLAIMER: The following is the output of a transcription from an audio recording of the PleinAir Podcast. Although the transcription is mostly correct, in some cases it is slightly inaccurate due to the recording and/or software transcription.
This is episode number 184. Today we’re featuring watercolor artist Brienne Brown.
This is the Plein Air Podcast with Eric Rhoads, publisher and founder of Plein Air Magazine. In the Plein Air podcast we cover the world of outdoor painting called plein air. The French coined the term which means open air or outdoors. The French pronounce it plenn air. Others say plein air. No matter how you say it, there is a huge movement of artists around the world who are going outdoors to paint This show is about that movement. Now, here’s your host, author, publisher and painter, Eric Rhoads.
Eric Rhoads 0:03
Well, thank you Jim Kipping and welcome everybody to the plein air podcast. We’re hearing from people around the globe who have been trying out plein air painting for the first time as a result of the podcast and also our worldwide global event plein air live which took place recently. The virtual conference was a smash and I hope you’re getting out to try painting now it’s summertime here where I am, it might be winter where you’re listening, especially if you’re in New Zealand or Australia. I went out with artists Terrell Gable the other day, we painted a beautiful pond with a nice S curve red canoes against the pine, the pine, the greens here in the Adirondacks. Lots of fun. Speaking of fun, nothing quite as much fun as seeing your image your painting on the cover of plein air magazine and putting a $15,000 check in your pocket. That’s the plain air salon, and you can enter before the end of the month for the monthly prizes and a chance to be a final Install category winners. There’s like 20-21 categories, all category winners are entered into the national competition. So get your entries in now at PleinAirSalon.com when I was watching people on the Plein Air live global event, we did our painting together and we had our live interaction or breakout rooms and so on. I noticed that a lot of you are doing a lot of other kinds of painting landscapes, of course, but figures, portraits, flowers, still life is just all kinds of things. So it was that that prompted me to put together another virtual event which is called realism live realism, meaning it’s not abstract. It might have abstract components to it, but realism is covering all the different forms of realism painting from loose, impressionistic to tight academic work. And we have leading artists like Daniel Sprick, Rose Frantzen, Dan Gearhartz great in Paris Juliette Aristides, Joshua LaRock. For starters, and many, many more to be announced and It’s going to take place the 21st through 24th of October with beginner day on the 20th. That means beginner day is for people who want to learn the very, very essential starting basics of these things. Also for a fraction of what you would spend to attend something like the figurative art convention, or the plein air convention, about 10% of the cost, actually, so it’s really, really very reasonable. We’ve already got over 700 people signed up, we would love to have you sign up before August 30 to get the $100 off early bird discount pricing, it’s at realismlive.com. Speaking of live, I’m doing live broadcast every day on Facebook since the quarantines began and it’s now I don’t know how many days but it’s a long, long, long time. I’m still loving it every day, seven days a week. I’m on Facebook at Eric Rhoads. Or you can find me on some of our other channels I rebroadcast on some of those too, including YouTube, and you can find it at streamline art video on YouTube. I’ve got guests marketing tips, and And a lot more. So just go to YouTube or Facebook and search streamline art video or you can find me Eric Rhoads on Facebook. Okay, coming up after the interview. Today I’m going to be answering some art marketing questions in the art marketing minute. But first, let’s get right to our interview with Brienne Brown. Brienne Brown, welcome to the plein air podcast.
Brienne Brown 4:23
Well, hello, Eric. It’s great to be here.
Eric Rhoads 4:25
Well, it’s great to have you We’re honored that you would be on the show today. So for the folks who may or may not know all about you, give us kind of a brief overview of yourself as an artist is your career.
Brienne Brown 4:39
Sure, um, well, I’ve always been drawing since I was little. So as long as I can remember, I always had art but I was also interested in so many different things. So I actually graduated in science. So I went into chemistry and always just did our own side. You know, as have like, Oh, it’s a hobby. Sure, you know, I love doing it. But I never, it was never thought to be a career for me until later when I was in graduate school actually. And I ended up not having much time for art. I was so busy, and the first time in my life, that I had no time. And it really was a wake up call for me because I wasn’t happy. And I realized that it was because I wasn’t painting I wasn’t drawing. So I took a community class, once a week, just two hours. That’s the only time I had to do any kind of art and it kept me sane in order to graduate. And from then on, it was important for me to keep in my life and I just started doing it more and more and making it a priority. And and then, yeah, when my oldest son was born, which was 12 years ago. I was working in toxicology at the time. Sorry. So I did get a job after graduating. And I quit my job to raise my kids. And I started to paint more anymore. And I just kept going. And I kept getting great opportunities and just kept building my career from there. And now I’m loving it.
Eric Rhoads 6:26
As a woman, how many kids how many kids do you have?
Brienne Brown 6:31
I have three kids, three boys. They are 12, 10 and three. So they keep me busy.
Eric Rhoads 6:41
I know that it’s probably not a whole lot different juggling an art career versus juggling a toxicology career any other career when you’ve got kids, but how do you deal with that? Because you do have to be gone at some events and things what what’s your process for juggling? Being a mom and being an artist full time.
Brienne Brown 7:05
Yeah, it’s really about time management. I learned early on. I mean, I learned from my graduate experience that it really wasn’t an option that I had to do it somehow, you know, I had to paint at least. And so I would hire, when they were really young, I would hire a young lady in our neighborhood to come to her house two times a week for four hours. And I would lock myself in my room and paint. And even when I was exhausted, and tired, I wish I was posted time. I just knew I only have that time and so I got to work. And so it was a really important lesson to me early on, and so even now I treat my creative time as precious and I schedule it in. So once a week I sit down usually on Sunday. scheduling when I’m going to fit everything in. Not that it always happens that way but it’s a good it’s a good start and it kind of helps me to make sure that I can get all of the important things in and it’s not that everything gets done you know my house is not the cleanest ever. But I fit those into and I also ask for help. So when I’m traveling, like First of all, my husband is super supportive. which is fantastic. I couldn’t do it without him. But I also have great parents and in laws that help out for when I travel, but then for the other times I’m here with the kids and I just fit in the time that I can to paint.
Eric Rhoads 8:49
Well I would have imagined during the during the COVID. quarantine that’s that’s probably been even extra difficult because you don’t get the break the kids off to school.
Brienne Brown 9:01
No, that’s true. That was very difficult because all of a sudden, I was homeschooling too. And it was like, Well, how am I going to do this? I, what we kind of ended up working, it helps that my oldest is now 12. And that helped a lot. And Cedric is three now. And so he’s, uh, I mean, it’s not that he’s into he is independent, but you know, he’s not an infant anymore. And so I was able to have my 12 year old help me with Cedric. And they’re also much more responsible to kind of get, we would get our schoolwork done in the morning. And then I would have some time to paint by just having the kids around and I would just do a little bit at a time. And then when Ken was off work, I would paint.
Eric Rhoads 9:50
Well, let’s talk about painting. Because, that’s kind of the next subject. tell everybody what it is that you do paint. What are the subject matter? What’s the medium, Help us understand that part of it.
Brienne Brown 10:03
Yeah, well, right now I am focusing mostly on watercolor. I fell in love with watercolor actually went in graduate school. It was my first experience with it. And so I do landscapes. My favorite is of course plein air. I wish I could always be doing plein air. But I probably do 50% on site and 50% in my studio, but mostly landscapes. Yeah.
Eric Rhoads 10:32
And do you use plein air as a opportunity for finished pieces? Or do you use them as samples to kind of give you the information you need for other pieces?
Brienne Brown 10:44
Yeah, great question. I do a little of both. I do like a lot of times when I’m on site, I usually finish the painting on site at least about 90% done and then I usually study it for couple weeks decide if it is done or not. But then I will use those if I find a really favorite one that I did to make good larger painting, if I can, and I will do a little both.
Eric Rhoads 11:15
I get a lot of questions about watercolor and you know, a lot of people favor watercolor, but they are afraid that maybe it isn’t going to sell because they hear rumor of watercolor is in the eyes of some galleries, some people inferior product, or maybe because it has to be under glass or something. Do you have an answer to those issues that you’ve had to deal with internally?
Brienne Brown 11:44
Well, I guess in a way, I have started framing my watercolors without glass. So I’ve researched ways it has come about three or three or four years. ago actually thought about seven or eight years ago for the first time. And at first I was like, Oh, that’s weird because Russell joule, he had one in a plein air event. And, and then I just realized it was that one event and I realized that my watercolors compared to the oils, because that’s him mostly competing with what’s a fad behind the glass, where the oils are, like right there. And so I made it a point to research I’ve been experimenting with different methods. And I found something that works for me, especially for my plein air events. Because it just makes framing so much easier. And I think a lot of people and collectors really like it. And so, I’ve been doing that do I see that there’s much difference. I have to admit there probably is a little bit because I also paint in oils kind of on this side. It’s not my main medium, but I seem to sell most my oil Even though it’s not on my website so there is that, you know, kind of idea that seems that you know, watercolor isn’t as long lasting, I guess or i’m not i’m not sure what. But I think, you know, it’s one thing that I was talking to watercolor artists that I admire. His name is Joseph Solomon. This was when I was years ago when I was first getting into kind of being a professional and starting to really sell my work. And I asked him that question because he did both oil and watercolor, but watercolor was like his passion. And he mentioned that he did see difference in that five, four galleries. He did start painting in oils too, but that he still made it a point to prices, oils and watercolors the same. You know, he was just not going to bow to it and he basically sells them both equally. So that’s kind of been my goal is to not under, I’ve kept my prices the same, and to try to not make them too low, if that makes sense.
Eric Rhoads 14:10
Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. And how’s the gallery response been to that?
Brienne Brown 14:15
I think it’s been pretty good. They definitely prefer not having glass. It just helps with shipping. You know, and you don’t have to worry about things breaking when you ship. I have had that happen with glass. And so there’s a lot of anacondas heavy glass gets really heavy when you get big paintings. And it’s a real problem.
Eric Rhoads 14:39
What is your technique? I have run into some watercolor artists who are doing that they’re framing in traditional plein air frames and they have some coating process typically that they put on the on the paper. What do you do?
Brienne Brown 14:58
Yeah, so I know For my plein air work, I make panels so I take watercolor paper first and adhere it to Gator board. So a hard surface so that it’s not, it’s not flexible. And then after painting, the painting I will I have a couple different varnish sprays so like Krylon and the UV protective, archival, non yellowing, whatever sprays and I use a mixture of matte and gloss. And then I also have different finishes that I’ll maybe add on it if I think the watercolor needs it but wax medium gives kind of a less serious feel. It’s just a different bucket. I can’t explain it’s not quite it’s not shiny, but I think that gives it a really neat look. And then also a brush on varnish. It’s a liquid wet. Sorry, liquid Tex brand. It’s like acrylic based and I’ll use the satin varnish on that one sometimes.
Eric Rhoads 16:04
So are you in all cases or you’re using the the spray initially, to make sure that you’re locking down the water. So if you add something else to it, it’s not going to disturb it.
Brienne Brown 16:16
Exactly, yeah, I spray it first. And I do at least four coats of spray and then at that point, you can pour water on it and I’ve tested it more numerous times. And it’s, it’s protected from moisture, which is of course one of the major things and then as far as you goes you know, it’s one of those things where UV damage, the main thing is be using professional paints, professional grade paints with the best, no light fastness scores, you can have any pigment and that helps. I mean the you know, and if you put behind glass UV regular glasses not UV protective either. So those are all things to think about. Absolutely. Protecting your watercolor. Yeah.
Eric Rhoads 17:12
Well, so in terms of painting watercolor in plein air I have not honestly other other than having watercolor on my lap and sitting on a park bench or something. Are you going about it pretty much with a traditional pochade box or field easel what’s your process like?
Brienne Brown 17:33
Yeah, I love the end. There’s an end plein air pro easel and they do all different types of uses basically tripod with an attachment. I use a panel folder actually, because they do an oil set and pesto set as well. But I use their oil panel holder because I’m doing panels. So it works well and then they have a trays. So they have a front and a back tray. And then I just use my watercolor palette. So it’s, it’s kind of lower down. So it’s not a pochade box and it’s a pie. And it’s really light. And I love it and I just put my backpack on it. So this, it doesn’t fall over. But it works great because I can put it all in one backpack, and hike anywhere I want.
Eric Rhoads 18:24
Outstanding. No, no, I love it. So you’re teaching there though, you’re teaching quite a bit doing some workshops and so on. What you could do is impart some wisdom on us in terms of some of the principles of painting that are going to apply across the board no matter what kind of medium you’re using, and and then we can kind of talk about some specifics later.
Brienne Brown 18:49
Sure, yeah, that’d be great. One thing I do, I love teaching and I love teaching plein air and one thing that really is what To say across the board is value studies, at least in my opinion, you know, whether I’m doing on site work, or in the studio, whether it’s plant, whether it’s watercolor or oil, I do value study beforehand. Because one thing that’s really important to me is the overall abstract value patterns, basically the composition because, right i mean composition is, you know, value shapes and how they’re arranged on this 2d surface. And so it’s something I like to solidify in my head to make sure I have a good or interesting w shape. And as long as I have that, then I know Okay, my painting at least starting out with a good foundation. And especially in watercolor though, it’s, it’s important, you know, in oil, it’s, it’s nice because you can kind of block in some of the values. You know in an underpayment If that’s the way you’re doing it with your watercolor, you really can’t, you’ve got to, you kind of have to have it in your head, you have to be able to visualize where your painting is going.
Eric Rhoads 20:12
Well, everything in watercolor from my understanding is really backwards in the sense that you have to you have to anticipate, if you’ve got a light on a tree or a light on a sailboat or something, you have to kind of keep that part blank. And then you know, work up to that otherwise, right, so it is kind of hard to establish those values, I would think.
Brienne Brown 20:36
Yeah, it is because and I tell my students this a lot you don’t, when you’re starting out and you’re comparing, because I do what I call it the first wash. It’s not unique, but I do I work from light to dark so very in that way very traditionally, but my first wash pretty much I cover the whole paper and I do kind of equate it to toning a canvas. basically getting rid of some of the white white, because it’s so hard to compare and relate values when all you have is white to compare it to. And so I build it up, I do my light values first with this light first wash, and then I’ll bring in middle values, and then darks. But it is hard to know, sometimes how, because it’ll start to look too dark because you’re comparing it to white. So it’s one of these things that comes with experience. And that’s what I mean by the visualizing, right? Because you have to kind of have faith that this mess that you’re making is going to turn into something. And that just really does come with experience. But the value studies does help because then as the light changes and as things pop up or your main subject runs away or drives away, which has happened all the time, then you have your plan, you know and as long as Your basic structure, you’re more apt to come out successful.
Eric Rhoads 22:05
Yeah, so what? When you first set up, you go out, you find your spot, you decide what you’re gonna paint what you know, other than your value study, what are the first things that you do?
Brienne Brown 22:20
I first thing I do when I arrive at a location is walk around, so I’m not going to set up yet. I always walk around and look and I’m looking for value shapes and patterns. And you know, I really try to get my students to stop thinking of objects, you know, as Okay, what is that? And I realize it’s hard for us to do because we always want to like if you go to for instance, I don’t know a famous place with a famous waterfall for example, like oh, you almost feel like you’d have to paint that waterfall. Well. No, we’re looking for is not a thing. We’re looking for. shapes to create a dynamic, interesting painting. Now, it’s not to say that a subject is not important, but we want to make sure we have that interesting structure first.
Eric Rhoads 23:12
And I have bid locations, I’ve, traveled the world been to a lot of locations. And sometimes the power of an iconic scene almost overpowers you, like, let’s say you’re going to, to the Eiffel Tower, and, you know, you have this vision of painting the Eiffel Tower, but you see something else that would make a great painting, but it’s a great painting you could do anywhere. And so I find sometimes I fight that urge. Because I said, Well, I came all the way to France. I should be doing the Eiffel Tower.
Brienne Brown 23:50
Right? Yeah. Well, you know, that’s so true. And one example I love to give I was at a plein air event in Utah, which I’m from Utah originally and And someone I just asked around. So where’s this? Where’s a good place? And someone told me about this chicks cafe. Say it was a iconic is like the oldest restaurant in the area. Okay? And so it’s like, oh, okay, I’ll go check it out. So remember me and my friend we stopped, we parked in the back actually. And so we start walking down this alley and I looked up and their way The sun was hitting the side of the building. And, I’m like, Oh my gosh, this is the painting, you know, and it was the back of the building. And I didn’t even get to the front. And so anyways, I ended up painting this I won an award. And it was funny because, the woman who gave me the suggestion came to me She’s like, well, I kind of meant the front. And she’s like, I guess it works. But it is one of those examples that it’s if you have a preconception, sometimes before you go paint, sometimes you might miss out on you know, a good scene or an interesting scene because You’re so like you say you go to the Eiffel Tower, like, Oh, I have to do that.
Eric Rhoads 25:07
Well, one thing I’m noticing a lot of painters are doing now is that a lot of them will, will take a bunch of smaller canvases or divide up their canvas. And that way, if they get into a situation where they want to do three or four scenes in a day, they can, you know, they can do something smaller, rather than taking the commitment of a larger painting that’s going to take them three, two or three hours.
Brienne Brown 25:32
Yeah, right. And that’s awesome. That’s one of the tools that I use to as a training tool to do small studies. You know, like, divide up a paper just like you’re saying, and that’s a great exercise. Yeah.
Eric Rhoads 25:47
All right. So I think I interrupted your train of thought, though, when we’re talking about starting starting a painting. So you start out by walking around trying to figure out you know what you’re going paint then. Then what comes next?
Brienne Brown 26:05
After I’ve just, you know, look to found something that I like then I from my back, I get my sketchbook out, and I do my value sketch. So before I even set up still I’m doing my value study and if I like it, then I’m like, Alright, now I’ll start paying. So I set my gear up. And then I get my paper or panel out whatever I have. And I will also draw it more carefully. So my value study takes me what, five or 10 minutes. So I try to make the quick I use marker or just pencil something like that, or sometimes paint even. But then I draw out the composition a little more carefully. And so that can depending, you know, if there’s architecture and stuff like that, that can take longer, but if it’s just a pure nature scene, it won’t take too long. And then I do what I said like our first wash, so it’s Very when it caught, you know, lots of water, just a little bit of pigment. So that’s fairly light and wash that over, only going over my purest whites that I want to leave. And then I let that dry. And because that step I usually let dry completely. And those are my like light tones and the colors that I’ll leave for the light parts I do generally at this point though, I should mention finish the sky, pretty close to done whatever clouds or stuff I have in there. And then I’ll bring in the middle values and kind of connect as many shapes as I can. And this is of course the awkward stage to call it the teenage awkward stage because it doesn’t look like much yet. And it’s when you get the darks in the details at the end, that everything starts to make sense because as watercolor artists, in order for us to paint the light, we have to paint the shadow And the shadows have to feel and have the right value and colors to feel like their shadows so so instead of painting like directly we’re painting around the light.
Eric Rhoads 28:14
And that’s how I tend to think almost like a posterized effect.
Brienne Brown 28:20
Yeah, basically like that, you’re doing these layers in a way
Eric Rhoads 28:28
I would assume this wash that you’re doing is a is a warm wash, right? You’re trying to make your lights feel warm. Do you put a bit of tone in it?
Brienne Brown 28:40
Yes, yes, I do…Well, I don’t always do the same set, but I usually start out with at least Red Yellow and Blue of some kind. So I usually start with primers and then I think of temperature. So glad you brought that up and I’ll either if I want the whole Painting to kind of have a warm tone like you say, or at least in the center of interest area, my center of interest will be the warmest area. And yes, where there is going to be light shining on I will have more of a warm tone to that because then I can bring in the cooler, cooler shadows in the middle value stage pretty much. That’s when they come in. And so it’s kind of built up like that. Now, I could go over there is I do glaze sometimes. So if an area didn’t get warm enough, or cool enough, I will sometimes after it’s dry, do a light wash over that area to warm or cooler that cool it down. So there is definitely some things you can do with watercolor to kind of affect it. But there’s not so much you can change. The other thing was watercolors you have to really be adaptable and kind of let the painting like if you have something in mind that oh I really wanted this. If you keep fussing and keep messing with it, you’re gonna lose the freshness of watercolor really quickly. So I’ve learned there’s a lot to just let it go and just see what happens which is really hard to do.
Eric Rhoads 30:22
Well that’s the magic of the water or the drip or the you know, the way things kind of spread out. Now are you are you doing a sketch because some water colorist will lay down a a tone, let it dry, then either do a pencil sketch or sometimes a pen sketch. Do you do anything like that? Are you sketching with paint?
Brienne Brown 30:43
I know I sketch with pencil usually beforehand to just position my shapes. Make sure that they’re in the right location where I want them on the on the paper. Sometimes I will add something you know for I mean, I love to add figures in my paint. And so if I see a cool figure come by that I’m like, Oh, I love that hat or whatever, something like that, then I might quickly sketch them in at any stage. You know, I can draw right on watercolor. But I’ll sometimes do sketch with paint instead of bringing in the pencil, but that’s not usually what I do.
Eric Rhoads 31:22
Yeah. So let’s talk about composition and and value patterns. Can you give us some wisdom about that?
Brienne Brown 31:32
Yeah, composition is one of those things I I love teaching but it is also I think one of the hardest things to teach because it’s one of the most kind of creative parts you know, there’s there’s a lot of technical things like I can teach drawing, and there’s a lot of technical things about drawing that I can teach. There’s technical things about color theory can be very technical, and so kind of easy to break down, you know what I mean? But composition? I mean, yeah, there’s the classic compositions and there’s rule of thirds, you know, and all of these are good guidelines, but they’re not hard and fast rules. And so that can be difficult because at the end of the day, right, a good composition kind of feels. And, and so it is, it is tricky, but I look for what I like to say is, I do teach sometimes the classic compositions, especially for beginners, when they’re not comfortable composing anything, then you know, they’ve never done it and they just kind of feel some people kind of have a natural aptitude to it, I believe. And so if they’re beginners, I think the classic ones like the S curve, you know, a crucifix or, you know, a fill yard or anything like that. Those are great to start with, but then at the end, it’s really paint Is troubleshooting, right? I, I kind of think of it as you want to arrange your shapes, kind of really, according to the elements of art, which are balanced with them. You know, contrast a lot of something and a little of something else. And that could be shaped line, color, texture, you know, all of the principles of art. I mean, so I think about I don’t, I mean, you get to a point where you’ve done it enough that it starts to be if you do without even thinking, but these are the things I try to ask myself. After I’ve composed something. I’m like, Okay, what does it need? Do I need more balance? Or do I need to change up the shape because they’re getting too repetitive? Or? So I’m constantly just asking my question myself a question, Should I add or subtract something to make this stronger? So that’s how I approach When I approach a painting, but then teaching though, like I said, there’s a lot of great tools to start to start trying to see and recognize good composition. Another actually great thing that I suggest my students to do is look for paintings that they love. And try to break it down as to why, you know, look at the shapes they used, what kind of rhythm does it have? You know, and really start to study because that helps you to feel like what is it that makes a great painting. And a lot of times it’s down to those, those big shapes that they’ve arranged. And, you know, the other things are important too, like brush strokes and, you know, in technique and all of that. But the big shapes the big structure of the painting is, I think, one that’s really important to keep in mind and to try to just continually improve, right and think conscious.
Eric Rhoads 35:02
So, if you were going to start your training from zero today you have knowing what you know, now, you have the opportunity to completely relearn and change the way that you learned. Or you have actually you have a way to impact others by saying, Okay, this is the process that I would like to see you go through so that you can avoid certain things, maybe avoid certain amounts of paint, obviously painting is a growth tool. What would you say is the process that you want to see people go through for plein air for their training?
Brienne Brown 35:44
Oh, great. Oh, that’s a great question. And I do have some things I wish I’d done early on. One is plein air that I had learned more from like early. I really came to plein air just in 2009. Actually. Before then, it was studio work for me. And so getting outside and learning from life, whether it’s sketching, whether it’s painting, really, both of those are would be so useful. The other thing I wish I had had done when I first started painting was started with a more limited palette. I mean, I had started learning about color theory and stuff like that, but I did not know how to mix colors and what it really meant. I still had, you know, 1520 colors because we’re artists and sometimes we can’t help ourselves. We’re like, oh, I’ve got to have that color and that color. And so when really at the end, starting out with like six colors, you could get away with so much and really learning to understand how to mix colors and how to get neutrals and how to get almost any color you want and really focusing on the value, saturation and queue of the colors, you know, kind of the important pieces I wish I had done that years ago, instead of just Willy painted for a long time and not knowing what I was doing,
Eric Rhoads 37:11
you know, I mean, I feel the same way as Actually, I almost wish that more instructors would start out by just saying, Okay, let’s just paint values and and just start out, you know, with black and white or brown white or something and just say, let’s master this first before you go anywhere else. Of course, the problem is that it’s like candy, you know, that color is so delicious, and you just want to get into it. But it really does complicate things. And I found in my own journey, that learning color has been the most difficult. I painted for many, many years before I ever even heard the term warm or cool color. And you know, then people kept I noticed people saying it, but nobody really ever explained it to me. So I think you know, taking it in, in baby steps. And it’s kind of what we call chunk learning, right? If you learn if you paint your values first and then you start with a very limited number of colors, and you really get good at that. And then if you want to add things in, you can but of course, as you know, many, many top pros are limiting themselves I don’t know about in watercolor, but in in an oil many are limiting themselves to three plus white. And, and, and never have that temptation of adding you know, another color, no matter how racist they may be.
Brienne Brown 38:39
Well, right, and I think, because I sometimes and I try to tell my students this because they’ll always ask, Well, what are your colors in your palette, and there’s a danger of that because you have so many different artists out that will use different colors, right but they have learned that there are professional artists, they’ve learned how to use those colors in there. palette, so that it works for them. So it as a student, if you just pick, oh, I’m not gonna use anybody’s name, but just like Bob or Susan’s paint, you know, paints, and you put them all in your palette, and you don’t know how to mix them. I mean, if you don’t understand the basis of mixing a color, then it’s just going Of course, it’s going to be a mess. So, I agree, I think starting off with just three to a handful of colors. And then if I think as you build, like you said, you could add in other colors if you wanted to, then you that’s how you start to make a palette your own.
Eric Rhoads 39:38
I will tell you that, I’m that workshop junkie, who, you know, I’d go to one person’s workshop and then I changed my colors in that workshop and then I’d go to the next person’s workshop and I change my colors based on that. So I you know, I’m finding myself going through this massive confusion all the time. I think the one thing that I finally have decided that You know, the critical thing is always put your colors in the same place. So it’s like a keyboard. Yeah, you know, I always know, my yellows are here, and my blues are here and my greens are here and so on. But I sometimes think that we maybe put too much emphasis on that, you know, the idea is that I think almost any palette works. You’ve just got to make it work for you, but you’ve got to understand the principles of color, which would be you know, the idea of harmony and, and, and, you know, warms and cools and so on that that stuff probably matters more than the actual color you’re using. Because, you know, it’s like, I remember Ken Auster. You know, he would, he could, he would take house paint and make something beautiful out of house paint. He didn’t care. It’s just whatever he had. And he didn’t care about brushes. He didn’t care about any of that stuff. He just said, You know, I don’t let those things get in the way. I’m just gonna make something beautiful.
Brienne Brown 40:54
Right? Because he understood the principles. And, that’s one thing. I Really try to teach my students now of course in a workshop, it’s hard to really understand the principles in one go in. So in a week long course, but really trying to understand those and implement them is what will benefit you most as artists, instead of just following what some how someone paints you know, and so it is something I tried to emphasize. And I think I was the same way, Eric when I was taking workshops, you know, I kept the same confusion and I would, yeah, oh, get that pink of that paint because Oh, I love that color. And I was a mess for a while and so it wasn’t until I really started to sit down and I tried to make goals for myself to understand color mixing and, that I started to it was like eye opening for me.
Eric Rhoads 41:55
Every time you add a new color, and I’m always doing this You know, I don’t practice what I preach, but every time you add one new color, you really should make a whole new color chart of how everything interacts with one another. And I, of course, very rarely ever do. But you know, I’ll see a color in the store, and I’ll go, I gotta have that. And, you know, and I’ll use it for a while, and then sometimes I’ll keep it sometimes I won’t. But it’s really easy. You know, it’s just when we had Plein air live recently, you know, I was watching everybody in there talking about how they’re using this color and that color to create their neutrals. And you know, and then there’s two others who are saying the same thing but with different colors. And you know, it’s just real easy to get caught up in but that’s what keeps the color people in business and we certainly want to do that.
Brienne Brown 42:43
That is true. That is true. And I have to say, I mean I still love to add colors. So one thing I do is I have empty wells in my palette that I keep empty for a reason for when I get new colors. And I do test them out when I first get them kind of with my what I call stock colors. are the ones that are kind of like my go to. And if they mix well then Okay, I’ll put it in my palette. But if I haven’t used it in like six months, then out it goes, you know, it’s like, Okay, if I’ve never gone to grab it when I’ve actually started painting, then it’s not a color that I’m gravitating towards, for whatever reason. And, and that’s another good suggestion for as you get new paints, you know, just to see if it’s something that you’re actually using.
Eric Rhoads 43:31
Sometimes I think that I get lazy, and, you know, it’s like, if there’s, I’m looking at a scene I go, Well, I’m really only going to use these three colors and so are four colors. I’ll put them out, I put anything else out and then when I run out of it, sometimes I’ll just try to make it work instead of instead of, you know, going and getting another tube and you know, putting it out and so on. It’s just I think laziness sometimes gets in our way to talk to me about the exercises. That you make your your or you suggest to your students in terms of training and plein air.
Brienne Brown 44:07
Yeah, I love exercises because takes a lot of the pressure off sometimes when we go out or like, Oh, we have to do a painting and once you put that pressure on yourself, it’s almost never going to happen, you know that you’re going to like the paintings. So, one that I love to do actually got from Robert Wade’s book. And he got from Charles Reid, which I don’t know if you know those two, they’re big watercolor names. But what he would do is, is go in, like we were talking about studies, right? He would take like a half sheet and divide it into four to five studies, small studies, and I do this but then the important the other important pieces is that you time yourself, so I set a timer, and in this exact time doesn’t really matter. You know, you might be a slow painter or a quicker painter. And that’s okay. But I try to do mine in an hour. And I try to do five, four to five studies in one hour. And I set my timer for actually 10 minutes less than that time. So I set it for 15 minutes, I draw all the compositions first. So it’s not the drawing part to kind of draw a go to one location, I should say. So this is all from one location. So this is great for a place where you go and you’re like, I don’t know what to paint there was so much there. Or like you said, you have the Eiffel Tower in front of you, but there’s so much to look at, you’re not sure which one to do. Or you could also use it for different color schemes. You know, he use this for a lot of different things, but one is compositions. So using, you know, 45 different compositions and then I start the timer when I start painting, and I kind of work on all of them. And so what’s nice in watercolor, I don’t have to let any of them dry. So I just work for one, to the next to the next to the next No, and I kind of do each little stage, then when that 15 minutes goes off that last 10 minutes is the most important time. Because you now know you have 10 minutes to finish everything. And it’s the time it’s a training for helping you make those decisions, what are the bold strokes that you just need to put down to finish it, the last little darks, whatever it is, and it’s, it’s a great training tool in realizing how little you need to really finish something. And a lot of times these studies are fun, and they’re also you know, I might come up with one of them that’s like, Oh, I can make a bigger painting out of that. So that they really are studied but it’s a great training tool more than anything, is that helps loosen you up and and also helps with your compositional and decision making skills. So I love to teach this and then and then one thing I do say is okay, if you’re comfortable, let’s say an hour’s, like way too fast for you, or not enough time, you, he would just do it. And so let’s say you do an hour and a half, well the next time you shave off 10 minutes, you know, whatever it is, you want to be a little uncomfortable. Because it’s in those times that we learn the most. And so it’s kind of putting that little bit of pressure on to like, okay, finish it, get it done. So I love those. And it’s a fun training thing.
Eric Rhoads 47:38
I like the idea. I like it a lot, because I think that it takes it even though you’re putting pressure on at the end, it takes the pressure off in the beginning, you know, our tendency all of us especially when we’re beginning is to noodle everything to death, you know, to to overthink it, like I have endless amounts of time and and yet the best paintings oftentimes are the ones that you You know, we had to slap it together because we’re running out of time or the wind was blowing and the sun was going down, and we just had to finish. And sometimes they they feel the most natural and spontaneous.
Brienne Brown 48:12
Right? And that’s why I’m trying to create that urgency again. You know, because exactly like what you said, and and I really tried, of course, if they take it home, they can’t, you know, keep working on it. Or they can, they can keep working on it, but I really try to tell them, finish it and done, you know, if you want to do another one, you know, the whole point of trying to get over that idea that I have to go out and let you say you fiddle with things. You’re like, Oh, it’s not quite done. I need to do a little more when you could have stopped an hour ago. And it would have been better, right? And so it’s trying to train us in that way and really believing it. Because a lot of times, you know, we all understand that but it’s still it’s hard to stop. So that’s what primers good, something to keep you honest. And so I love you know, and it’s kind of fun. The other fun thing is, is at the end of it, you actually have this painting that has these three or five images of a location. And I have sold a number of those because they kind of give a nice feel that, oh, you’re getting to know a place. Yeah, so that’s another nice thing about it.
Eric Rhoads 49:31
So what, are the things that you find are really challenging you the things that you’re really trying to figure out for the next stage of your career? Are there things that you sit around and think about that, that you’re really trying to do to how to get to a certain level or how to accomplish a certain goal?
Brienne Brown 49:55
Yes, I’m always thinking that I’m I’d there’s a numbers. Like I’d really get like to get back. I mean I do. I’d like to get back into figures and portraits Actually, I used to do them years ago never very well. But I’ve really gotten into landscapes lately, which I love and the plein air landscapes have been fantastic, but it’s something on my mind that eventually I’m, I want to start kind of working in that way. But it probably won’t be till Cedric’s a little older. Maybe at least till he gets to kindergarten.
Eric Rhoads 50:34
Well, you have built in models and the the magic about them is they will stay still for more than 10 seconds.
Brienne Brown 50:43
That’s true. That’s true. I need to do some more. Just like yeah, gesture drawings on my kids.
Eric Rhoads 50:52
Well, that’s right. And also you know, you’ve got you put just put a iPad in front of them and put Disney on it and they’ll sit for a while. I used to do that with my kids. Yeah, the one thing I’ve noticed, my kids have graduated high school. They’re off to college now. Yeah, I now look back and say I wish I’d done more paintings of my kids.
Brienne Brown 51:16
Yeah, that’s a good point. All right. All right. Well, maybe I should get started on that. I mean, it’s something I mean, I love putting figures in my paintings, but I would just love to get even better at it.
Eric Rhoads 51:29
And we think, there’s a tendency to believe that because we’re plein air painters that we don’t do all these other things. And it’s now it’s like you’ve said, All right, I’m a water colorist, but I’m also an oil colorist. And we have to be willing to accept and try other things. And we had for instance, about 80 people from the plein air convention also attended the figurative art convention that we do, because they wanted to learn more about painting the figure and so on. And so I think that that kind Have discipline everybody that I know who does plein air and who does portraits and figures. They say, the portraits and figures make them better plein air painters, and the plein air makes them better portrait and figure painters. And of course when you’re painting the figure outdoors in plein air that is a that’s a real challenge, because now you’re dealing with light that’s constantly changing, shadows changing and you don’t have a fixed model light.
Brienne Brown 52:25
Right? Yeah. You know, it’s true. And, I love that idea, Eric, because you’re right. I don’t want to pigeonhole myself into one thing. I mean, it’s one thing. I’m constantly loving to learn and push myself. It’s just it’s part of my personality. And I think as artists, it’s a good thing to do because I, you know, in some, I’ve had people ask me sometimes because they’ve seen me post some of my oils and they’re like, Oh, no, are you going, as they say, the dark side? And I’m like, What? No, I mean, I think of myself as an artist and I can learn so much about my medium by using another medium too. And there’s so much we can learn from, you know, thinking differently oils make me think differently. And I love that because that can inform me on and also keep my watercolors more fresh by changing things up. You know I don’t want to get into a rut by doing the same thing over and over again. At least that’s that’s my goal.
Eric Rhoads 53:28
Yeah, I noticed that. So I was at Albert Handell’s studio. I wrote about this recently because we just released a new pastel video with him. But I when I was at his studio, and he was teaching me pastel techniques, I realized that those could very easily apply to oil or probably to watercolor. I’m not a watercolorist per se, but I think the idea is trying new things and even trying mixed media trying to play with different materials and so on will help you realize there are different ways to approach whatever medium it is you’re using.
Brienne Brown 54:05
Yeah. I totally agree. And also the main principles are still the same across the board, like we talked about earlier. It’s really the paint application that changes and and that can really help in learning ways, different ways to build up whatever shapes you’re trying to build up, whether it’s in pastel or acrylic, or, you know, whatever or like you say, mixed media. I think it’s all it’s all good and we should keep experimenting. Absolutely.
Eric Rhoads 54:40
So you said something at the beginning of the show, I just want to touch on this just a little bit more. You said plein air doesn’t have to be about doing a finished painting a location. Can you talk to speak to that just a little bit more?
Brienne Brown 54:56
Yes, because, I see this a lot where you feel like you need to get out and, you know, get a finished painting so that you’re happy with it. But the power of plein air is not doing that. The power of plein air is really about information gathering. And I keep trying to think of this in myself. I’m gathering information I’m learning from life. I’m learning what light does, what colors look like in you know, in real life, and not from a photo and what shadows do and that’s the most important piece. And if you never I tried to tell people they get so embarrassed by whatever they’re playing or painting like we’re but at the end of the day, you don’t have to ever show your plein air paintings. I mean I i think that’s a you know, the most important part is just learning. If you can learn from that and then bring it back to your studio. You know, when I first started my First plein air experience actually was from a workshop instructor. And like I said, it was in 2009. I was taking a workshop and he said, I’m brand new, you’ve got talent, but you have to get outside and paint. And I was like, Oh, is that all I gotta do? Okay. And I didn’t understand at the time, but I made goals for myself. So that, like, I would say, for three months, I’m going to do a plein air painting twice a week. And, and that was my goal. And so that was so helpful, because you don’t want just want to say, Oh, I’m going to do it once a week for the rest of my life, you know, right. That’s like our work. But why I did it is because from the beginning of that three months to the end of this three month, I could see my progress. I could put out the painting, the first one I did and then the last one. And also I started to notice in my studio work, my studio work was getting better and better. So the goal should, I don’t think should ever be trying to get a finished pace. Now, of course, it’s different in plein air competitions where there really is the pressure to produce something. But when you’re just plein air painting, to learn, and to just get the most benefit out of it, you should focus on the process.
Eric Rhoads 57:24
And I think that takes a lot of the pressure off when you have that attitude about it’s not about you know, I’m out here, I’m enjoying nature. I’m challenged. I’m having fun. And I’m and I’m doing something that doesn’t have to be a finished work. Nobody’s going to judge me. The hardest thing I find is if I’m hanging out with other painters, and I’m painting with them, I now actually try to avoid this. I used to get up, take break, walk around, see what they were doing. And then I’m thinking, Oh, that was a good idea. And then I try to put that in my painting and it ruins it.
Brienne Brown 57:56
Yeah, I hadn’t thought about it. You’re right. That can be a pressure, you know when you’re with other so yeah, maybe it’s not such a good idea to maybe look at people at the end.
Eric Rhoads 58:08
Right. We’re kind of coming up on the on the end of our time here. So do you have any, final thoughts that you’d like to share with people?
Brienne Brown 58:18
Just if you want to plein air paint to get out, just get out and start doing it. Because I think it’s such a wonderful pastime. It’s good for your work it you can learn so much and it’s fun. You know, at the end of the day, it’s one of the things I just enjoy the most.
Eric Rhoads 58:38
So your website is BrienneMBrown.com. Is that right?
Brienne Brown 58:49
Yes, that’s my website for my paintings. And I also have a new website for my online teaching.
Eric Rhoads 58:55
Oh good. What is it?
Brienne Brown 58:57
It is https://www.travelingcolorsstudio.com/
Eric Rhoads 59:01
Travelingcolorstudio.com All right, terrific brand. Thank you so much for being on the Plein Air podcast.
Brienne Brown 59:09
Well, thank you for having me. This was really fun.
Eric Rhoads 59:13
Well, thanks again to Brienne Brown. She’s a very, very special lady and I appreciate her time today. Are you ready for some marketing ideas?
This is the marketing minute with Eric Rhoads, author of the number one Amazon bestseller make more money selling your art proven techniques to turn your passion into profit.
Eric Rhoads 59:32
Thank you again Jim Kipping and the marketing minute I try to answer your questions. I do answer them. I don’t know if I answered him well, but you can email your questions to me [email protected] And here’s a question from Robert, in Norfolk, Virginia, who says I know it’s important to have a website. So I do have a simple one. But how do I know if it’s good enough? Well, the way you know that, Robert, it’s a great question. You can’t know if it’s good enough unless you know what its purpose is and when What the purpose is going to use and how it’s going to serve you. So you need to know how you will measure success, right? So some websites are there to get your work seen others are there to sell work. Others are there to gather names of potential customers, there’s a lot of different strategies you can take. But you want to start with your goal in mind. All right, so if I’m building a website, what do I want to do? I’ll in my particular case, I wanted to communicate information and then I’ve got to make sure that I’m gathering names and so I, I oftentimes offer a free incentive of some kind. So somebody has a reason to, to offer me their email address and they can get on my newsletters or whatever I’m offering at the time, but you want to start with a goal in mind and then determine what is success now if I have a website and I get no visitors, it’s not a success. How many visitors Do I need and want How many? How easy is it to find my stuff? How is how many names do I want how you know what kind of sales Do I need or you know what’s considered Good sales from your website, you know, if it’s costing you money, and it’s not bringing you any value that’s of no value to you really, you know, it’s kind of like imagined, in the old days, we had what we call phone books, you probably remember those some of you do. And, you know, there were, you know, three inches thick in a city like New York, probably, you know, six inches thick of phone book with thousands, 10s of thousands, millions of names in it, and addresses. And, you know, it doesn’t do you any good to be in the phone book unless somebody’s looking for you. And so you’ve got to find a strategy to make them want to look you up. There are literally probably hundreds of millions, if not billions of websites now. And so the question is, how do you get them to find you? What’s your discovery tool? How are they going to find you? What What do you want them to do when they get there? What actions do you want them to take? So I can’t really answer your question about how, whether or not it’s good enough, because good enough is defined by your goals. And so you first got to start out with your goals, then.
Eric Rhoads 1:02:00
Next question comes from Katrina Gorman in San Antonio, Texas. Katrina has sent us a whole bunch of questions. We like her a lot, because we like questions. Here’s one of them that she sent. And she says, if people tell you over and over, they love your work. But you notice these same people are buying work from another artist, what’s a good way to find out? Why, or should you not even worry about it? Well, Katrina, I think first off, people are generally good. And they mean to compliment you because they, it may not be an expression of interest, they may they may genuinely like your work, but they don’t want to own it. Or maybe they’re complimenting you a lot, because maybe they’re thinking you’ll give it to them. I mean, that could be possibility. But liking something and wanting to own it or different things. Owning art is very special, something that speaks to really only just one person, if there’s one original, it’s for one person, so sometimes it needs to find the right buyer. Now, I wouldn’t overthink this, you know, appreciate the compliments, pay attention. If the complements are over the top or come in frequently or a lot on a particular piece, because then you can kind of take it to the next level. So you can find a way to ask, you know, maybe so you don’t put them on the spot. You don’t you don’t have to say, Hey, would you like to own that? Because they might, you know, they might not know how much it would cost or be embarrassed if they can’t afford it or whatever. But you can say, you know, the old remember, I’ve got a friend who is asking for me kind of thing. You know, you could say, Do you know anybody who would love to own it, I’d like to find it a loving home. And if you happen to know somebody who would love to own it, you know, I’m trying to get, you know, certain amount of money for it. And you know, if you know, or you might say, you know, you you seem to like the slot, do you have interest in it? And if you do, tell me what you’re thinking about in terms of what you’re thinking about paying, you know, the reason to do that is because they could be thinking about $1 and you could be thinking about $100 or they could be thinking about 200 And you could be thinking about $100 and so the nice thing to do is just to say you know what, what have you got in mind? And if there’s a big gap then that’s gonna make it a little uncomfortable you can say wow, you know I was hoping to get $100 and you’re only willing to pay $5 you know please understand I need to make a living on this and so you know if you want to come up a little bit maybe I can come down a little bit but please know that you know, I’ve got to get a certain range and I’m sure you understand that this is how I make my living. So anyway, you can keep it third party by saying you know if if you know somebody who thinks it’s a fit, you know, that kind of thing or you can just be honest and say hey, you know, what are you thinking I noticed you bought some other art you seem to be interested in this but you haven’t. You haven’t expressed interest in buying it if you want to buy it that’d be cool with me we can figure that out. You know, sometimes just straight out upfront, be honest as possible is probably the best way. A lot of people play games. I don’t like to play games anyway. I’m paying attention to signals as well. important though, you know, if people if you’re in a gallery setting, and people go back and look at it a couple times, if they’re talking about it, or if they’re looking deeply, you know, look for things that they’re showing signals of interest. And then you can engage them, you know, maybe you don’t say, hey, do you want to buy it? That’s a little awkward, but you can say, Hey, does that painting remind you of anything? And maybe they’ll say, yeah, when I was a kid, there was this mountain with a river going through, you know, that kind of thing. And so you can look for ways to deepen that conversation. So they tell you that you said, Well, tell me a little bit more about that, you know, well, I really had this wonderful childhood, you know, when I visited my grandparents, and that house in the painting reminds me of my grandparents really tell me more and you know, so they’ll, they’ll deepen, and as they deepen, they will tend to deepen their commitment and interest and talk themselves into it because sometimes people just need to talk themselves into something you can’t ever talk anybody into anything. Don’t even try. It is not it’s not in in your DNA. It’s not an My DNA you know, I might, if I see somebody is interested in something, I might highlight something, but I’m not, you know, I can’t twist somebody’s arm and talk them into something. I mean, you don’t want to be that person. You don’t want to be talking people into things that they don’t want. Anyway, that is the marketing minute.
This has been a marketing minute with Eric Rhoads, you can learn more at artmarketing.com
Eric Rhoads 1:06:24
outstanding while you guys are reminder to enter plein air salon before the end of the month pleinairsalon.com also check out the world’s largest realism conference globally and you’re going to want to attend that it’s realism live.com and if you’ve not seen my blog where I talk about art and life and stuff and things check it out, it’s called Sunday coffee and you can find it at coffeewithEric.com. It’s always fun doing this we’ll do it again sometime like next week, God willing, we will see you then I’m Eric Rhoads, publisher and founder of Plein Air Magazine. Remember it’s a big world out there. Go paint it.
This has been the plein air podcast with Plein Air Magazine’s Eric Rhoads. You can help spread the word about plein air painting by sharing this podcast with your friends. And you can leave a review or subscribe on iTunes. So it comes to you every week. And you can even reach Eric by email [email protected] Be sure to pick up our free ebook 240 plein air painting tips by some of America’s top painters. It’s free at pleinairtips.com. Tune in next week for more great interviews. Thanks for listening.
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