• Tag Archives learning to paint
  • Monday Muse – Heiner Hertling

    An inspiring, yet unassuming artist and teacher

    I’ve recently discovered a TV oil painting teacher who seems very humble, unassuming, and inspiring.  I’d like to tell you a little about him.

    Not just copying…

    For years I’ve watched Bob Ross on TV and later on Netflix.  I’ve never really tried to paint to along.  One thing I do notice of his approach to teaching though, is that what you learn to do, for the most part, is to reproduce a Bob Ross original, rather than learn what to do to paint what you want.  Now don’t get me wrong, I know if you followed along and painted enough of his paintings, you’d learn plenty of techniques that you could eventually apply to your own original work, but kind of like the paint and sip classes I teach, you learn by copying exactly what someone else is doing.

    No, “Happy Little” references, or beating the devil out of your brushes…

    Recently I discovered another TV painting teacher, who doesn’t teach in the same way.  He isn’t in a dark studio painting from memory or imagination, rather he is outside, painting what is in front of him, he also doesn’t just teach you to paint what he paints, rather he teaches you the techniques, the steps to take, in order to paint whatever scene find in front of you when you go out.  Also different is that you won’t here him refer to “happy little” trees or clouds, and he doesn’t clean his brushes by “beating the devil out of them” and in the process splashing paint and thinner all over the place.  His name is Heiner Hertling, and the show he teaches on is called “Your Brush with Nature”.


    Two artists creating in plein air.
    Two artists creating in plein air.

    Not just entertaining, but really teaching…

    Honestly from an entertainment perspective, Bob Ross is funnier, and more entertaining to watch, but I think from a learning perspective I like Heiner better.  He teaches how to roughly sketch in your scene with earth-tone oil paints on a canvas he has already covered in an earth-tone acrylic base, how to block in your darkest areas first so you can get good darks before your thinner gets clouded.  Then how to block in your major color areas, and mix colors on your canvas as you go.  He also doesn’t only teach you techniques, but teaches principals of good composition, methods of creating depth in a painting, etc.   His paintings have a painterly, spontaneous, impressionistic look which I love.
    Basically, he teaches you how to approach a scene and make the decisions you need to make in order to paint it yourself, rather than just teaching you how to copy a mountain lake sunset.

    Now don’t get me wrong, I think Bob Ross’s method would definitely be worth learning, and you’d learn plenty that could apply to your own painting, but Heiner just gets down to business with some serious teaching right off the bat.


    No exclusive supplies

    For Bob Ross’s method, there are certain supplies he uses that you can only get through the Bob Ross company.  Things like liquid white, liquid clear, liquid black… those are things that not just any art store carries.  Now I’ve read online that some people have found ways to make substitutions for these things, but usually only after working with the Bob Ross brand first, to figure out what products are similar enough.

    Heiner Hertling on the other hand, uses oil paints, mineral spirits, and sometimes linseed oil or turpenoid, all things that you can pick up easily at any art supply store, and some of the things are even available at hardware stores.  So all in all, his system requires a little less investment to get started.

    Since discovering his show, I’ve watched an entire season on Netflix, so far I haven’t painted by his method, mainly because I haven’t really had the weather or oportunity to gather everything and head outside for some plein air painting.  However, I do know that I’ve learned a lot, and plan to rewatch again, taking notes, while I wait for the weather to become more agreeable so I can head out to do some painting myself.


    Now, I may have just discovered this show, but its been around a while, I found YouTube clips of it that are 9 years old, still its new to me, and its on Netflix if you’re interested in watching more.

    Here are two videos, one shows the intro to the show, and the next shows a brief excerpt from the middle of an episode, if you want to see an entire episode though, you can see it on Netflix, just search for “Your Brush with Nature”.



    Embedding isn’t allowed on the second video, so all I can do is link to it… you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/419Psm3P6nM


  • Metamorphosis of an Old Work Part 1

    The Need for Artistic Metamorphosis.

    I am going to write today about the need for artistic metamorphosis, no, I am not talking about the artist’s need for personal growth.  I am talking about those works the artist steps back and looks at, and thinks that the work itself needs to be transformed.  I’ll explain…

    Promising Beginnings before Apparent Ruin

    Every artist has those works that started out with great promise, but which, during the process of creation, took a turn for the worse.  You those works that started out great, and then at some point the artist steps back and thinks, “Oh… now look at that… I’ve completely ruined it.”

    Most often, when this happens to me, I do one of two things.  Either I’ll grab some gesso or some titanium white and paint out everything on the canvas so that I can use the canvas for something else.  Or, I’ll toss the canvas into the back of a closet or cabinet, thinking, “Maybe someday I’ll I’ll figure out how to fix that, but for now I just don’t want anyone to see it!”  If I choose the latter, the work usually sits in that closet or cabinet forever.  It seems I never do pull them back out to rework, or almost never, sometimes there are exceptions.

    The Diamond in the Pile of Coal

    Occasionally, I’ll see something in the painting that I feel is worth salvaging, some element that I feel has enough potential to make it worth the extra effort of fixing the mistakes. A little diamond hidden in what is otherwise a pile of coal.

    For example, there is this painting:

    A painting full of mistakes
    This painting started with promise, I love the covered bridge, but I got carried away with fall leaves in the foreground, making it impossible to see the background at all, and destroying any appearance of depth.

    I started this painting during my first year of painting.  I hadn’t yet learned many of the tricks to creating realism and depth in landscapes.  I started with the covered bridge and did a really good job.  I really liked what I saw with the bridge, especially inside the tunnel.  I felt that it was really going somewhere.  Then I started adding in fall trees in the foreground before I had done any background landscape, this caused the picture to look really odd in the places where you could see through the trees.  So, I made the trees thicker, until you couldn’t see through them at all.  This eliminated those odd looking spaces, but also gave everything but the bridge a strange one-dimensional appearance.

    Not only that but I didn’t have any detail in the foreground trees.  They would have looked fine off in the distance like that, but up close I felt I should have given at least a hint of definition in the leaves.

    I tossed the painting in the cabinet, and left it until today.  I got it out again and started looking at it.  I still really liked the bridge, but now I noticed problems I hadn’t even noticed before.  The road leading to the bridge seemed off, like the angle of the railings didn’t quite fit the perspective of the rest of the painting.

    The Metamorphosis Begins

    I decided to rework the painting, salvaging just the covered bridge, and redoing everything else.

    The first step in doing that was to white out everything I wanted gone with titanium white, and then paint in the parts of the bridge that had been covered up with the leaves.

    Here was what I whited out first, but later decided I needed to cover more.
    Here was what I whited out first, but later decided I needed to cover more.

    Later, I decided I needed to white out even more, and it now looks like this:

    Okay, so now my diamond is freed from the coal all around it, but it still needs to be set in a lovely piece of jewelry.
    Okay, so now my diamond is freed from the coal all around it, but it still needs to be placed in a nice setting.

    This is what the painting looks like so far.  I will update as its metamorphosis continues, and we shall see if I can salvage the diamond from the coal mine, and make it into something worthy to be shown to others.

  • Sunday Skies #5

    Painting Skies in Acrylic

    Acrylic paints are wonderful in many ways, they are versatile, they dry quickly, but they also have some draw backs, it is trickier to paint some things in acrylics than it is in oils or watercolors, skies are one of those things that are more challenging.  The quicker drying time makes it harder to make gradual transitions of color or to blend clouds out into the sky.

    However, in spite of the challenges, I still like working with acrylics, so my solution has been to practice.

    Practicing to get Better

    I’ve practiced painting skies every Sunday, trying to improve my ability to paint a believable sky.  I usually use photos that I take, but soon I hope to do some in plein air.  My first attempt was laughable, my second was better, my third sky wasn’t what I was aiming for, but I really liked the post-impressionist appearance of it anyway.  Here was my third sky:
    Winter Sky Acrylic Painting
    I based it on this photo:
    Photo of a Winter Sky from my porch

    Seeing Improvement

    I saw even more improvement the following week, with this painting:

    Morning Sky acrylic painting
    If i had made done this with more pink, and less orange and yellow, it would have been closer to the photo.

    Painting is Becoming more Realistic

    Well, I based today’s painting on the same photo as week three, except that I first edited the photo to bring out the colors in the sky more.  I didn’t add colors, I just turned up the saturation so the colors would really stand out, I also cropped it so that I was dealing with just the sky, since that is my focus.

    Here is the edited photo:

    Notice how the colors of this winter sky really stand out, all I did was turn up the saturation.
    Notice how the colors of this winter sky really stand out, all I did was turn up the saturation.

    Now here is this week’s sky painting:

    Sunday sky 5
    Painting of a winter sky.

    It still isn’t an exact match of the photo, but I am coming to realize that doesn’t really matter, I think my favorite sky so far was week three, because it looked a little Van Gogh-ish, and Van Gogh is my favorite painter.

  • Sunday Skies #4

    Learning to paint skies.

    As my regular readers know, after one particularly frustrating experience of repainting the same canvas over and over and over again before finally being satisfied with the way sky came out, I decided to do a practice painting of a sky.

    I am happy to say that I feel my overall painting skills are improving as a result.  This shouldn’t surprise me, after all as they say, “practice makes perfect”.  Well, I’m not sure about perfect but I am finding that…

    When it comes to art skills, practice makes steady improvement.

    Today’s painting was based on a photo of the sky at sunrise which I took a couple of weeks ago.  Photos never seem to capture the true colors of sunrises or sunsets without some post processing, so I edited this photo immediately afterward until I felt the sky in the photo looked like what I had just seen outside. It was a cell phone photo, so some details in the landscape weren’t very clear, but for my purpose it was fine.

    It is interesting to note that while this is sunrise, the most colorful view was in the western sky, at least from where I stood.  Of course, some towering trees blocked my view of most of the eastern sky, so that might have the problem!

    The colors of the sky are often the hardest to capture.
    Ironically, on this particular morning the western /south western  sky was more colorful than the eastern sky.

    I am getting better at painting sunrises and sunsets in acrylic paint.

    Now, skies like this are a challenge, they are difficult to render so that they both capture the dazzling spectacle you see, and still remain believable, so that people don’t look at them and think its just fanciful embellishment.

    I think this week I did better than any of the previous times I’ve tried to capture a sky with colors like this.

    Now, I know it’s not a perfect duplication of the photo, but then again, I am not a camera! Excuse the glare, the paint was still wet, the kitchen light was shining down on it, and I had to get the photo so I could publish my Sunday Skies blog post on Sunday and not Monday!

    Morning Sky acrylic painting
    If i had made done this with more pink, and less orange and yellow, it would have been closer to the photo.


    While I can still some room for improvement, I can see that I’m already learning more about painting the sky.

    When it comes to art skills, practice makes steady improvement. #learntopaint #acrylics Click To Tweet
  • Sunday Skies #2

    Well, even though I did decide this week that I needed to stop beating myself up over how I paint skies, I still do want to improve in that area.  So, I am continuing the Sunday Skies feature for a while longer, it is good practice for me in a non threatening situation.

    This week, I used the same reference photo as LAST WEEK.

    I’ll post it again so you can see the photo that was guiding my painting:





    Once again, I didn’t worry about the land features in the painting, though I did give them a little more care than I did last week.  But the land was still just silhouette, because my focus is the sky.

    Sunday Skies 2

    Well while there certainly is still room for improvement, I believe this week’s rendering turned out much better than last week’s.

    Just as a reminder, this was how I painted the same sky last week.
    sunday skies 1

    I think next week I will move on to using a different reference photo, perhaps one with big billowy white cumulus clouds… we’ll see.


  • Still Working at It

    Well, many of my readers will remember one particular painting that I was struggling with.  The part I was struggling with most was the sky.

    I started it like this:

    Brought it to this point:



    Wasn’t really happy with it and in frustration did this:

    Kept working at it and ended up with this:

    Thought that if I changed just a couple of things it would look better, and ended up with this:

    Once again decided to paint over almost the entire sky and try again:
    sunset again blah


    Finally ended up with something, that while it wasn’t exactly what I’d planned on, I decided was acceptable.




    After this I painted in an outline of land, but I didn’t photograph that, so I can’t post it.

    I still wasn’t sure if I liked where the painting was going, so I sat it aside for a few days, I did some practice skies, played around with my paints, looked at photos of skies, and looked at other artists paintings, made unrelated sketches, but didn’t touch this canvas for a few days.

    Until last night I decided to do a little work on it again, and this is how it is looking now:

    I think I am becoming a little happier with this pieces as it progresses.  I will say that I took this photo with my phone, and the colors aren’t quite true. There is a considerable amount of purple in the sky on the real painting.

    So where is this piece going next?  Well, I am going to make the water reflect the colors of the sky a little more, and then I’ll be painting in a bridge that, if I do it right, pretty much everyone will recognize.

    At that point, I will either be leaving it as a landscape, or inserting a little piece of science fiction pop culture.  I haven’t really decided for sure.  Also, there will probably be a boat or two in the water.