Free painting lesson from Brian Neher

Uploaded by howlegh1 on 22.07.2011

Hi, Iím Brian Neher and welcome to this short painting demonstration. Let me tell you a
few quick things about myself first. I have been a portrait painter for the past fourteen
years, painting commissions for numerous families around the country. My work has been featured
in American Artist Magazine and on national public television. While I have been blessed
to see some success, I sort of think itís funny when people ask me about ìmyî process
for painting. The truth is that itís not really ìmyî process at all. When I started
my journey as a painter I knew that I needed help and I was fortunate enough to get some
of the best help available. For example, I got to learn from the legendary artist, Joe
Bowler, who gave up tons of his time to help me, a young artist who could not really give
much in return. He greatly impacted my philosophy about painting. But I also learned a lot from
intense study of the old masters, the painters of the last century who really encapsulated
everything that painting should be. They were the greatest portrait painters who ever lived,
drawing on the discoveries of great painters before them. In turn, their writing and their
work is a wealth of information for todayís painters and they have greatly influenced
me. What Iím saying is this: I am not sharing deep secrets or easy systems in my DVDs. Everything
Iím saying is available in other resources, if you have enough time to dig it out. But
who has that much time? My job is to help you reach your goals much faster. Remember,
I am not sharing ìmyî process. Iím sharing the process of numerous truly great painters.
When you get down to it, there are four specific principles that you have to get right if you
are going to paint. They are Drawing, Value, Color and Edges. In this simple demonstration
I am going to show you how to apply those four principles. I want to say this: These
four principles are not necessarily easy and it would be silly for me to suggest that I
can teach them to you in an hour. But, I am going to give you a very solid introduction
and, by the time this video is over, you will be able to use those principles. Each of these
principles is covered in far more detail in separate DVDs on my website. In fact, there
is one DVD for each principle. And then there is a demonstration of a portrait painting.
It is very in depth and will give you great insight into how to really use those principles.
But today I just want to show you how to apply these four principles to this simple picture
of an apple. Before I start, I want to take just a moment
and explain the four principles. First, thereís drawing. Drawing refers to actually getting
the image down on canvas accurately with correct proportions. It is important to note that
we are not going to draw objects. Rather, we are going to learn how to see and work
with shapes and weíre going to spend some time teaching you to measure so that those
shapes are accurately drawn. Next is value. Values refer to the three dimensional appearance
of any object. We will talk about how to set reference points and how to establish value
relationships. Next is color. Color is the most exciting part of painting for me. We
have enormous power to express emotion through the colors that we use. Iím going to show
you exactly how to mix colors and use them in a way that brings harmony to a painting.
The last principle is edges. Edges are like the punctuation in painting. They help to
define how much emphasis certain elements should get within your painting.
Now, after all of that, letís start painting this apple.
The first principle that I actually talked about was drawing, getting things accurate
and in proportion. Iím going to be using two photos today. Itís really one colored
photo of an apple but I have a black and white photo as well. What I mean by drawing is measuring
accurately, getting things in proportion. In order for me to do that, I need to make
a couple of decisions first. So, let me go ahead and get my paint brush here and Iím
going to mark off on this canvas where I want the top of this apple to be. Right about there
is where I want it. Then how tall do I want this apple to be? For this demonstration,
this simple demonstration, Iím going to put it right about in here. Okay, so now I know
where the top of the apple is and the bottom of the apple. Now I need to figure out where
I want the sides of the apple to be, so Iím going to say that I want this side of the
apple to come right about here. Now, in order for me to find this other side of the apple,
I need to do a little bit of measuring. Thatís where drawing comes into play. This is what
I mean by drawing: measuring accurately. Iím going to take a little tool here and measure
from the top of the apple to the bottom of the apple. Iím going to take that same measurement
and compare it to see how it compares as far as what the ratio is if I turn it horizontally
and compare it from one side of the apple here to the other side of the apple, just
to see where it falls. It comes just a little bit further on this side. Almost the same
distance, but just a little bit further. So that gives me a clue as to where I need to
put this side of the apple. So letís go ahead and do that. I canít take the same measurement,
of course, that Iíve done in the photograph, because Iím making this apple here a different
size on my canvas. So Iíll go to my canvas and Iíll make that measurement there. Now
Iíll turn and rotate it, just like we did in our photograph, and Iíll mark off right there. Now, I know that this
is the same distance here. But, remember when we measured our apple over there, it came
out to be just a little bit more so let me go ahead and move that measurement over just
a tad bit more. And thatís really where the side of the apple is going to be. Now I know
exactly where my apple needs to go. Itís going to be within these confines here, the
top, the sides and the bottom. And thatís what I mean by drawing. Itís measuring, getting
things accurate. Letís go ahead and start painting. Another aspect of painting is trying
to find shapes instead of just lines. I donít want to just sit here and outline this apple.
In fact, as Iím painting this apple, this is not a demonstration to make it look just
like this photograph because thatís not the purpose in doing this demonstration. Painting
goes much farther than that. Basically, Iím going to be interpreting the shapes on this
apple to come up with the form of the apple in more of a loose, painterly way. Just to
let you know, I am not trying to copy this photograph because there would be no purpose
in doing that because the photograph has already done that for me. What I want to do is to
find the big shapes. These big shapes like this leaf. Look at that as one big shape.
That stem is one shape, even this white patch here. That highlight is one big shape. See
how this red comes around here and then comes up to this dark area? All of that is one big
shape, even this lighter shape on the side here. Thatís what Iím thinking about, are
shapes, and thatís how I would like to get you to think as well. The faster that you
can think, in terms of shapes, the more youíre going to start to think like a painter. So
letís go ahead and lay some paint down and do a few things and then weíll talk about
what I did there. I have two photographs here. This is a black and white photograph that
Iím working from. Basically, this is to tell me more about the values, which I am going
to talk about in just a second. This is the second principle that we need to address but
I am going to go ahead and do a little bit of painting first. Okay, I know I need to
mix a green color. Itís sort of a warm green. That actually goes back to another principle
which weíll talk about in just a minute. I know that this is the top of the apple,
so this comes up a little bit more and then down. Letís go ahead and start. Now, as you
noticed, I did not try to draw an outline around that. I did it in two strokes, I believe,
two big brush strokes that are going to represent the shape of that leaf. Okay, weíll leave
that there. Thatís going to represent my leaf for now. Now Iím going to add some of
the red apple, so first we need to get some paint. As Iím looking at this photograph,
I want to start painting the red of the apple but Iím looking down at this photograph on
the bottom, which is my black and white photograph. Iím noticing that the red of the apple is
a little bit darker than that green, at least in my photograph. So, what that means to me
is that I need to make that red a little bit darker, which brings me to my second point,
which is values. Values refer to how light or how dark a color is. So, if I had a red
color next to a green color, you can see in my black and white photograph that the red
color is going to be darker than the green. So, I know that I have to make my red color
a little bit darker in order for the value relationships (that means how one value relates
to another) is correct. I know that if I get all of these lights and darks correct, it
should give me a three dimensional look on the canvas. So thatís really what Iím going
to try to do now. It needs to be a little bit darker than that green so Iíll add a
little bit of Alizarin Crimson and a little bit of Prussian Green. As Iím mixing colors
(actually color is one of the four principles as well) youíll notice that I mixed a little
bit of green inside of that red. The reason I put green inside of that red was because
that green is the complimentary color of red. I go into further details as to what a complimentary
color is, which is actually an opposite color on the color wheel, and the color wheel is
explained in further detail in my DVD on color but I just wanted to introduce color to you
as well. Color can produce an emotion in people like no other tool can which is available
to an artist. Iím going to try to get this shape here, this big shape of red. And, again,
this isnít going to be exactly like the apple in the photograph but it is going to give
you a good idea of how to use these principles that Iím talking about, as far as drawing
and values. We just talked a little bit about color there. Letís get a little bit lighter
here, a little bit lighter red. Remember, itís a little bit lighter red up here, right
in there. You have to make that value correct in order to get that three dimensional look.
Basically, Iím just putting in my big shapes. Thatís really what you want to do. Donít
think so much about the actual object. Donít think so much about making this look like
an apple. Instead, just think of the shapes that make up the apple. Thatís when your
drawing really comes into play. Thatís what is meant by drawing, seeing things as shapes
and putting those shapes down accurately. Okay, Iím going to lay in a little more of
these shapes here. It doesnít take much to get this picture to start looking like an
apple, as youíll see in just a minute. Iím not trying to be very detailed or anything
like that, but Iím just looking at the big shapes. Those big shapes are what are important.
Now I see a different shape here. Itís a little bit lighter shape, so let me go ahead
and put that one in there since Iím down there. Iím going to add a little bit of Ultramarine
Blue just to create a little bit of difference in there so that, instead of it being just
the same shade of red, how about I add Ultramarine Blue to that red. It turns it to more of a
purple color because mixing that primary color of red with the primary color blue gives you
a purple color, which I also talk about in my color demonstration. Now, I want this to
come across here so letís do that. Since Iím here, why donít we go ahead and do this
shape. This shape is a little bit lighter on the other side but letís go ahead and
do that. Letís add a little bit of Viridian to that. As youíre looking at this, you might
be saying ìwell, why arenít you taking time to blend those colors in and make them look
more like they should?î It might look like its wrong now, but Iím actually laying the
groundwork for pulling these colors together and modifying the edges and blending later
on. But right now, Iím just interested in getting those big shapes, because thatís
really what is important, and then what I do with those shapes can come a little bit
later. I picked up a little bit of a different color there. This kind of has an angle on
it. It kind of comes down, that shape does. It needs to be a little darker, though because
the value is a little darker in there, so letís go ahead and make that value a little
darker. Now letís get a little shape in here. Again, Iím just thinking about shapes and
how those shapes fit together. Now I want to go down to the bottom of the apple. This
is really dark down here. Let me go ahead and put a really dark value. Iím adding a
little bit of Prussian Green with that Alizarin Crimson, which produces a very dark color,
a very dark value. Value and color are two principles, when it comes to color, you have
to have value. So, itís important to know both of the principles and how each one applies
to each other. Thatís the interesting thing about these four principles. They all work
together and, as a painter, if you can get all four of them to work together then you
can paint anything you want and anything youíd like. Iím going to get this shape a little
bit better. Now as I look at this, I know I need to come in a little bit more here.
Somethingís not quite right up here, so before I do that, I am going to look in a hand held
mirror real quick, which gives me a reverse image to let me know how far off or how accurate
I am on my drawing. It gives me a new perspective. I think I just need to come up a little bit
more on that one side and then narrow this in. So, come up a little bit more over here
and then narrow this. Let me go ahead and put that up there, since I have it. Thatís
a little bit lighter value up there. Then weíll take off a little bit of this over
here, just with a paper towel and some paint thinner. It removes the paint. Now, in a minute,
Iím going to come in here and put more of a white background around this just to have
a wet surface to be able to work some edges, which brings me to another point which is
our last principle, our fourth principle: edges. Edges are very important because edges
are like the punctuation in painting. Have you ever heard the term ìItís not what you
say, but how you say itî? The same thing goes for painting. Itís not just what you
paint, but how you paint it. One way that we, as artists, can be very expressive in
our painting is by edges. Edges allow us to either emphasize certain areas of the painting
or downplay other areas, so edges are extremely important. That is the fourth principle that
is extremely important to know as an artist. Iím going to go ahead and do this dark area
down here at the bottom, so Iím going to pull a couple of big shapes together and see
what happens. Again, Iím just having fun painting because painting should be fun. It
really is enjoyable to paint. It is even more enjoyable when you know the four principles
because then you have a knowledge of how to paint and what you can actually do in paint.
It is so frustrating, as a beginner, to sit down and try to figure out how to paint when
no one has told you or given you any guides whatsoever. But, if you have principles that
can guide you through a painting, the whole process is much more enjoyable because then
youíre not just trying to figure out how to paint, youíre trying to figure out how
to become a better painter and how to push those abilities that you have been given to
the next level. Okay, letís go for this highlight here. Thatís one big shape here. Iím going
to mix a little bit of Manganese Blue, which is a warm blue. When I talk about warm and
cool colors (I go into more depth in my color DVD), but a cool color would be considered
like a blue or a green or a purple color and a warm color would be considered a yellow
or an orange or a red. Basically, people associate certain things like the sun is hot, so itís
a yellow color, fire is hot (orange and red) and so on. They would say that ice is blue
and people tend to associate different temperatures with different colors and thatís what I mean
when I talk about color temperature. Iím trying to get a nice blue. Letís try this
half of the shape first and then weíll get the other half. This half of the shape is
a little bit darker, a little bit darker in value. As Iím working on this, all of these
little shapes of light and dark are very important because they are actually representing the
light that is being reflected off of this object, an apple in this case. I know that
if I can get those shapes accurate and correct then it should give me the illusion of whatever
object is in front of me, or whatever object I am trying to paint. Letís see, we need
a littl darker color. That three dimensional look is very important in representational
art because in representational art you are trying to make something look the way it appears
in nature, or else give the illusion of it. Letís make that one big shape here. In a
minute, Iím going to pull all of this together, but right now Iím still trying to get some
shapes down. Letís go a little lighter. Letís go with Cadmium Scarlet, which is a warm red.
I sort of like that warm color. Iím going to add some cadmium green pale to that cadmium
scarlet. Iím going to see if I can introduce just a little bit down here as well into this
shape just to help to give the illusion of some warm, reflected light coming back up
in there. Okay, Iím just going to go ahead and do a little bit of painting here and then
weíll talk about edges as we finish up. I took a few minutes, about ten minutes to do
a little more painting on this apple. The reason Iím putting all of this white in here
is because the photo that Iím using has a white background which is very light and in
order for me to really show you how to use the fourth principle, which is edges, I need
a wet surface for all of this wet oil paint in the apple here to work into. So, what Iím
doing is just putting down a white background, simply Titanium White. I wouldnít normally
do this on a portrait painting or a painting that I was working on but, for this demonstration,
it will just give you an idea as far as what you can do when you use the principle of edges.
I have too much paint there. The principle of edges is that there is a balance between
various edges, either hard or soft edges. Okay, can you see what I just did there? I
took that white and blended it in there with just one stroke and that gave me sort of a
soft edge. It gave me a softer edge than what was there. Now, I can do the same thing at
a couple of other places around this apple. Iíll soften just a couple of other areas.
Even that produces an interesting edge because you still have a little bit of that red showing
through as well. Iím just trying to find a little bit of an angle on that apple, which
tends to give it strength as far as drawing goes. Iím going to bring it down here and
then Iím going to back with a brush and kind of blend this
in because thatís more of a soft edge that Iím seeing there. A couple of more soft edges
and then I think weíre ready to put in the stem of our apple. I waited on the stem till
the end because itís like a little accent. Iíll show you what it does. It will actually
help it to look more like an apple when weíre finished here. Weíll just soften that shadow
underneath and then soften that leaf a little bit and then weíll put in the stem. Then,
I think that will give you a good idea. Letís do one more thing here. Letís soften that
shadow. This is part of the reason that I wanted that white to work into. Do you see
that softe edge that I can get by doing that? I canít get that if I donít have something
wet that I can work into. Now, if I was to take more time on this apple, I could make
it look more like that particular apple or more photo realistic if I wanted to, but thatís
not my goal. My goal in doing this is to interpret this apple and to show you how simple it can
be to use these four principles when painting a simple object like an apple. You donít
have to spend forever on it. Okay, I think I just want to get a stem in there and weíll
put that on top. Let me just double check. Thatís a pretty good apple. It will give
you a good idea. Letís go ahead and put a stem in there. Iím going to mix Alizarin
Crimson and Prussian Green. Letís get a really dark value because that stem is actually going
to be the darkest value in my painting here, so I need that to be pretty dark. Letís get
the bottom of that. It has a little bit of a stem that comes out, but not quite that
much. Letís just get that leaf to have a little better shape. Iíll clean off a brush
here. It needs a little something right on top of that stem. Then I see just one little
area (I always say that thereís just one more area. Artists are famous for that.),
but I see one little area in that highlight that I just want to blend a little bit. Not
much, but just a little bit.
Again, if I was painting a portrait or working on a painting that was a commission or something
for a gallery, I would spend much more time than what I am doing here, but this is for
demonstration purposes just to show you that, even though youíre not spending a huge amount
of time on a painting, that you can still apply those principles that youíve learned
(the principles of drawing, value, color and edges). Those principles can be applied to
a quick sketch; you can apply them to a finished piece or any type of work because the principles
remain the same. Itís just how far you actually want to take your painting. Now, Iím looking
here, Iím just going to finish this. Let me get a brush, a brush that doesnít have
any paint on it. Okay and just one last little thing. Iíll put in a little bit more of a
highlight. Not much, not lighter in value, but just to lay some paint on there a little
bit better for that highlight. There we go. I think thatís pretty much it. Iíve demonstrated,
very simply, how you can use all four principles and I like the look of that little apple.
Let me take a look at it one more time. Well, thatís it. If you followed me, you
now have an idea of the most important principles in painting. You know, itís funny, one of
the camera men who were working on this shoot went home and actually drew picture with crayons
using the principles that he was learning on this set. Now that picture is not going
to win awards but, before watching this, he had no idea how to draw. So, even if youíve
never drawn or painted in your life, you should now have an idea of how professionals do it.
But, even if you are very experienced, you need to know these principles like the back
of your hand. Like I said earlier, itís not because I hold to these principles. Itís
because the old masters, the greatest painters who ever lived, focused on them. Now, remember
this: If you need more help, I have a DVD available for each of these principles. In
each of those DVDs I spend a few hours discussing the principles in much detail with visual
aids and I also do a demonstration on canvas. In addition, I have produced a long demonstration
that utilizes these four principles together while painting a portrait. You can learn more
at my website at Again, Iím Brian Neher and best wishes in your artistic