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  • Writer's pictureLynne Kornecki

Discovering Plein Air Artist GEOFF ALLEN on the Daniel Smith Art Supply Website

Geoff Allen's "Reading Waves".

You never know what random, online surfing for art info will reveal. Thanks to the BLOG posts on the Daniel Smith art supply website along with its tutorials, videos, and more, it's a great place to find helpful information and discover new-to-you artists. According to its website, Daniel Smith is a leading global manufacturer of artist-quality paints and mediums, including watercolor, gouache and water-soluble oils. Their website is definitely worth checking out: Home - DANIEL SMITH Artists’ Materials

Here's snippet of a recent Q&A interview with Geoff from the Daniel Smith website -- enjoy!

Do you paint every day?  Absolutely, even if it is abstract with just brush strokes and washes. Painting is a highly tuned physical activity that has to be practiced. I liken it to playing an instrument – we are linking and building a neural pathway between our eyes and our hand. 

Do you paint one piece at a time or work on several at the same time? Do you create a concept piece first?  Mostly I paint one at a time. I get about 90% of the piece completed outdoors and then I’ll stop to assess what is happening. I have a lot of pieces that hover at 90% until I finish them. It’s that last little bit that I add which can make or break a piece, so I’m careful at that stage. I find that my paintings which are solely derived from photos look more contrived. My experience has been that throwing more time into a specific painting doesn’t necessarily make great art happen. I find now that my better work comes from painting a familiar place several times. There is a great film of Jackson Pollack working on a piece. He stops and says that he has lost touch or a connection with his painting, so he abandons it. I believe there is some truth in this. As long as there is connection, the game is on. 

Do you prefer painting in studio or en plein air? Absolutely plein air. I waste time in the studio. I am 100% more focused outdoors with a clock ticking. Plein air provides an “on my feet” experience for me that the studio doesn’t. Recently I was looking at historical photos of San Diego and realized that plein air painting is inherently nostalgic. I edit my scenes by removing trees, buildings and the bric-a-brac that accumulates over the decades until I have a painting that resembles how a place might have looked when it was first built. I love how plein air relies on a quick imagination and designing on the spot. 

How many core colors do you use? My color palettes have been in flux, but I would say I have a core of 16 color with another 4 coming and going. The core colors are Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Cerulean Blue, Phthalo Blue (Green Shade), Cobalt Turquoise, Cobalt Teal, Vertiter Blue, Alvaro’s Fresco Gray, Sepia, Burnt Sienna Light, Alizarin Crimson Permanent, Organic Vermilion, Pyrrol Orange, Yellow Ochre, Hansa Yellow, Medium, and Neutral Tint.  I am also playing with Mayan Violet, Wisteria, Carbazole Violet and Lunar Black. 

Tubes, pans or sticks?  Tubes.

When do you know that your piece is finished?  I try to hold myself back from overworking my artwork, but on the other hand, if it’s clear the painting isn’t working, I take it as an opportunity to keep experimenting. Mark-making is one of watercolor’s super powers, but if you go too far, this aspect can drag the whole piece down. Watercolor is unique in that it shows every act so nakedly and there is no going back in history. The only way you learn when to stop is to go too far a few times – that is the art of keeping it fresh. 



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