Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Biblical Principles for the Ballot Box

Mr. Phillips posted some excellent thoughts recently on his blog, and I also recommend getting the message he mentions--very relevant and thought-provoking.

Home Again

We've got more snow and Dad needed to take the truck to work today, so I'm home painting again. :) I thought it would be fun to post some closeups from the painting and explain my method for building up detail.

Many artists, when they paint in acrylics, will begin right away with the detail and gradually build up color and realism with repeated washes. I've had more experience with oil painting so my technique is mostly borrowed from that medium. Oil paint is very forgiving, you can blend easily and cover mistakes since the paint is workable for a day or two, and you usually work from the abstract (blobs of establishing color) to the details. That's what works best for me in acrylic as well.

In this detail, I have already painted the foothills, and laid in some color and texture on the marsh, but the water is undeveloped and there is very little detail.

I began adding some wave texture in the water, including some of the brown reflections along the shoreline. Ignoring the duck for now, I'm focusing exclusively on the background.

I added trees and more texture to the foreground reeds and the rest of the marsh. A suggestion of low-hanging fog in the distance puts limits on the extent of the marsh, and helps distinguish it from the distant hills. The water is finished. (for now ;)

I used 4 different shades of blue and gray for the feet. The tail feathers have been blocked in and the undertail coverts are beginning to take shape.

The tail feathers have been shaded and shaped, and the black rump feathers darkened. I decided the feet were a little too blue, so I took care of that with a thin wash of yellow ochre.

I hope this little demonstration has been enjoyable. Keep in mind the colors are sometimes slightly off.

All photos © Benjamin Berkompas 1/30/08

Duck Stamp, Continued

I've begun to work on the Scaup now. The head and upper body were done with a mixture of ultramarine blue and burnt umber instead of pure black, but since I haven't devoted much time to that area it still looks very flat and dead (there's some glare on the head so it looks even flatter)

I went on to mix up a variety of blues and blue-grays for the skin tones on the feet, which were lots of fun to paint--especially when I got to adding all the little spots. Mom said they were cute.

As I was editing these photos I realized that I kind of messed up the bill. It's far too chunky at the base. But that's an easy fix when I get there.

Overall the painting definitely needs to be warmed up. As the old artist's rule of thumb goes, warm colors advance, cool colors recede, and without that color contrast I'll lose a lot of important depth and impact in this piece. (Thanks Adam for this tip!) Reviewing many of the adult artists entries--as well as the winning Jr. paintings--I found that most of them used a predominantly warm palette as well. Keep in mind that the color in the photos I'm posting isn't always completely accurate.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Chopin and Coffee: How To Banish Stage Fright Forever

That's right my friends, the solution was so simple all along, under our very noses, but now it's official. You can overcome nervousness at the keyboard by sipping a latte.

Studies have recently provided strong evidence which supports the theory long held by many psychologists, that peace of mind in a stressful environment can be achieved by a familiar taste, scent or feeling which one mentally associates with tranquility and solitude.*

I was euphoric! Finally, the best of both worlds. Chopin and a pumpkin spice latte. :)

From now on a run by Starbucks on the way to a performance is mandatory.

*Please note, I am not nor do I claim to be a certified psychologist or expert in the field of pianophoebia. I cannot vouch for the accuracy or veracity of these studies...but I sure like 'em! This technique is most effective for the fast-and-furious pianist who needs the extra attack and vigor provided by a double shot of caffeine.

Snow, Thou Art My Friend

I went to bed expecting to get a few inches of snowfall last night, and woke up to find my expectations fulfilled. :) Getting to class was iffy, so I stayed home and painted the day away listening to Kevin Swanson's Generations podcast.

Some major (at least to me it's major) progress to report too, especially in the water and the marshy field in the background.

If you saw the last post you may have noticed that the scenery looked remarkably like the dead marshes from LotR; the swamp was barren and flat, extending for miles until it reached the dark foothills in the distance. Not really the landscape I had envisioned for my painting...

Then I had the fortunate inspiration to add some trees and ground fog, and the scene suddenly had a great sense of depth and detail that it was seriously lacking before. I'm immensely happy with it now!

As for the water, well, I've always struggled with water. It's just a tough thing to paint properly. Last year's entry was completed right on the deadline, so I didn't devote nearly enough time and effort to the water--and it shows. But when you analyze photographs and successful paintings that feature water, you'll learn that it can actually be a simple thing to tackle. There are essentially three elements that you want to remember when you paint water (specifically disturbed or rippling water)--the establishing color, the crest highlights and the valley shadows.

The establishing color determines the overall coloration of the water (in this case blue), but since water is highly reflective it may contain a variety of different colors (even opposite colors) depending on the conditions. When you're dealing with ripples or small waves, as in this painting, the "crest" of each wave or ripple will be highlighted, and the space in between the crests will be shaded--this can get really interesting when you accent the crests or valleys with a completely different color caused by the reflections of the surroundings. In this case I felt that the water needed some carefully placed brown accents to suggest the reflection of the reeds along the shore. All the shapes in the water are distinct and have a specific reason for being there.

I hope that didn't put you to sleep, but if it did, sweet dreams!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Duck Stamp

Well, this year I'm running a bit late with my duck stamp entry, but with a month and a week left I'll still have it done. The duck is a Greater Scaup, in a dramatic stormy setting.

The painting is done in acrylic on illustration board, a really versatile surface that allows me to work lots of detail in without being hampered by a highly textured board.

And this is my "studio." Nothing special, but it gives me enough space to work around the mess that is my desk.
Since this is my last year to compete in the Junior Duck Stamp competition, I'm really pouring myself into this painting. The stakes are high!

Friday, January 25, 2008

I'm Up Before the Sun

Yeah I know, it almost never happens. This morning I was up (and awake!) at around 6:00 because I love to stand outside and freeze in the pre-dawn, sub-zero polar wind gusts with a camera in my hands, waiting for the sun to peak above the horizon and shed some rosy light on snow-laden Mt. St. Helens. (But I begin to wax poetic...) That was some serious cold! Of course once I got over the sensation that my fingers were going to say goodbye any moment, it was all worth it. :)

The sunrise was a watercolor painting (done on Arches 300 lb. cold-pressed paper, using New Gamboge, Alizarin Crimson, Cobalt Blue and maybe a touch of Raw Sienna with a #12 Winsor and Newton sable flat... ;) Very beautiful, though subtle at first.

After delivering a truckload of firewood to a family from church, I still had about 45 minutes to burn before class, so I revisited one of my favorite local parks, Klineline Pond, to photograph the waterfowl, specifically Widgeon and Canada Geese. There was frost on nearly everything. The ducks were a pleasure to work with--they're quite tame from all the exposure to humans at the park. Even though the sun did very little to penetrate the cold, the light at that time of morning is hard to beat and worth getting up early to enjoy.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bryant High blasted for showing religious film

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State reacted very strongly when the recent independent Christian film "Facing the Giants" was shown several times at the Paul W. Bryant High School in Alabama, saying that showing the movie in class violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Heather L. Weaver, the organization's attorney, voiced her objection saying, "The film is meant to convert people to Christianity, or at the very least to inspire them to be more religious, and the public schools aren’t allowed to indoctrinate students." (emphasis added)

Read the article here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"Teen Twins Power Huckabee's Army"

Newsweek magazine featured an article on the supportive efforts of two local 19 year old evangelical homeschoolers in Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign. Alex and Brett Harris comment on their interest and involvement in the political scene and why they endorse Huckabee.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

They Are Without Excuse

"For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." Romans 1:20

On Sunday evening our family watched a debate between the well-known proponent and leader of "New Atheism", Prof. Richard Dawkins, and creationist and scientist Dr. John Lennox, about Dawkin's latest tirade against organized religion, The God Delusion. (held in Alabama in October 2007) If you're interested in being amused by atheist irrationality then this debate fits your needs. ;)

I would love to dive into some of the issues instead of skipping over the surface, but for now I want to share something that became glaringly obvious throughout the course of the debate. Dawkins holds to the widespread misconception that for Christians, faith and reason are mutually exclusive--we turn off our rational side whenever we go to church. Dr. Greg Bahnsen would have called that "bogus!" As one who holds to presuppositional apologetics, I understand that Christian faith is THE ONLY foundation for right reason.

Dawkins illustrates this truth quite nicely, though unintentionally I'm sure. ;)

Anyways, he said some very interesting things about the beauties of the universe and the natural world (being at one time an aspiring naturalist) which immediately reminded me of Romans 1. To paraphrase Dawkins, "For centuries as people have observed and studied the earth they have the urge to attribute it's wonders and intricacies to a supernatural being, which urge I admit is very strong, but this is really just wishful thinking on our part. With Darwin we discovered a way of explaining these things in a purely naturalistic, scientific manner which puts God out of the picture." ("And we're really really thrilled about it!") Well, he didn't say that last part, but clearly they are quite pleased with their little theory which denies God the glory due his name.

I think Calvin provides a better explanation and refutation of this idea than I could hope to in his masterful exposition of Paul's letter to the Romans. (Quoting Calvin's commentary on the book of Romans, pgs. 70-73)

"God is in himself invisible; but as his majesty shines forth in his works and in his creatures everywhere, men ought in these to acknowledge him, for they clearly set forth their Maker: and for this reason the Apostle in his Epistle to the Hebrews says, that this world is a mirror, or the representation of invisible things. He does not mention all the particulars which may be thought to belong to God; but he states, that we can arrive at the knowledge of his eternal power and divinity; for he who is the framer of all things, must necessarily be without beginning and from himself. When we arrive at this point, the divinity becomes known to us, which cannot exist except accompanied with all the attributes of a God, since they are all included under that idea."

"'So that they are inexcusable.' It hence clearly appears what the consequence is of having this evidence--that men cannot allege any thing before God's tribunal for the purpose of showing that they are not justly condemned..."

"'For when they knew God.' He plainly testifies here, that God has presented to the minds of all the means of knowing him, having so manifested himself by his works, that they must necessarily see what of themselves they seek not to know--that there is some God; for the world does not by chance exist, nor could it have proceeded from itself. But we must ever bear in mind the degree of knowledge in which they continued; and this appears from what follows. 'They glorified him not as God.' No idea can be formed of God without including his eternity, power, wisdom, goodness, truth, righteousness, and mercy... He then who has a right notion of God ought to give him the praise due to his eternity, wisdom, goodness, and justice. Since men have not recognized these attributes in God, but have dreamt of him as though he were an empty phantom, they are justly said to have impiously robbed him of his own glory... 'But they became vain,' that is, having forsaken the truth of God, they turned to the vanity of their own reason, all the acuteness of which is fading and passes away like a vapor. And thus their foolish mind, being involved in darkness, could understand nothing aright, but was carried away headlong, in various ways, into errors and delusions. Their unrighteousness was this--they quickly choked by their own depravity the seed of right knowledge, before it grew up to ripeness."

What atheists and evolutionists hate to admit is the fact that they, like everyone else, actually have PRESUPPOSITIONS! They come to the table with a few assumptions and foundational beliefs and then look at us in disbelief when we expose their godless 'faith.' But that's just what it is. A faith. We Christians believe that God is, and the atheists believe that He isn't, and as they go about touting their open-mindedness to the evidence they exhibit a fundamental hatred of God which they cling to stubbornly. All this under the guise of "science" and empirical observation. It is clear that they have disavowed God and precluded any notion of His existence before they enter the laboratory, "And thus their foolish mind, being involved in darkness, could understand nothing aright, but was carried away headlong, in various ways, into errors and delusions."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

New Links

I've just added some great new links under the "Art" category. I particularly recommend artist Alistair Butt's website for some fantastic landscape and scenic work in watercolor and oils. Right now I'm working on expanding my watercolor supplies--buying more paint (some new colors!), which is very expensive--so that I can get start to get a grasp of that medium over the spring and summer. (Btw, for those who may be interested I'm completely in love with Arches watercolor paper--it has the most incredible texture and feel, nothing like the cheap "plastic" texture you get in the less expensive papers. The process by which high-quality watercolor paper is made is really fascinating...but that's another post. If you're looking for a great surface to paint or draw on be sure to give Arches a try! Ahhh! I must buy some...soon)

Well, off to bed or I'll never be able to get up for class tomorrow. I have some new art in the works, so check back for updates!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008