Per Haagensen

Per Haagensen
Per Haagensen is a Norwegian concept artist and illustrator based in Oslo.

He appears to work primarily digitally in Photoshop. Other than that, I know little. His own website is not yet launched, and there isn’t much background information on the site of his artists’ rep, Shannon Associates or on his CG SOciety portfolio.

There are, however, a good number of images that display his forceful, representationally detailed style, in which lighting, color and mood are accompanied by a subtle range of textures.

When looking through his portfolio on the Shannon Associates site, be aware that you can click on the large image at right for an even larger image in a pop-up.

I particularly enjoyed his modernized take on Raphael’s School of Athens (image above, bottom).


Phil Starke

Phil Starke
Phil Starke is an artist who brings a bright, painterly sensibility to his portrayals of the landscape of the American West and Southwest.

Starke was exposed to European art as a boy while his military family lived in Germany. He later studied at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, and was drawn to the color and light of the American Southwest.

His work has been featured in numerous publications, including American Artist, Southwest Art and Art of the West.

I particularly enjoy his paintings in which he has areas of shadow falling across part of the composition, part of his fascination with the play of light within a landscape. He demonstrates a subtle appreciation of lower color and value contrasts in areas within paintings that also include high-contrast, high-chroma passages.

Starke paints both on location and in the studio. He also paints still life and figurative work, and his landscapes often incorporate figures.

Unfortunately, the gallery on his website is one of those annoying arrangements in which you must keep your mouse positioned over the thumbnail while viewing an image, instead of simply clicking on the image you want to see, but there is a more traditionally arranged small works section, and you can find additional images on the sites of galleries in which his work is represented (linked below).

Starke conducts workshops in both plein air and studio painting. He has also published instructional DVD’s and books, the most recent of which is Plein Air Take-Along Tip Guide.

He has a site for Starke Studio, devoted specifically to his instructional materials, and maintains a related blog, Between the Palette Scrapings. He also participates in the Tuscon Art Academy online instruction (the next session starting March 25, 2013). You can find short preview clips of his instructional videos on YouTube.


Bill Carman at Brumfield’s in Boise

Bill Carman
Like that irresistibly alliterative title, Bill Carman’s work seems to have bounced out of his imagination fully formed, too wonderfully refined in its execution to be so delightfully off-kilter in its subjects.

After solo shows in New York and California, Carman’s characters, beasts and undefinable others — rendered in pen and ink, watercolor, acrylic and mixed media — will be on display at Brumfield’s Gallery in Carman’s home town of Boise, Idaho from March 16, to April 28, 2013.

The gallery has a slideshow preview of a few of the pieces in the show, many of which are new and have not been exhibited previously. There is a pubic opening this Saturday, March 16, from 6-9pm.

You can see more of Carman’s work on his blog, and in his Flickr galleries of paintings, drawings, book illustration and editorial illustration.


Rachel Ruysch

Rachel Ruysch
Dutch painter Rachel Ruysch, whose life and career straddled the seventeenth and eighteeth centuries, was renowned for her striking still life paintings of flowers, which occasionally featured fruit and crystal glassware.

Very often they featured insects as well, perhaps either to make them more true to nature or to intimate that the flowers and fruits portrayed were already so realistic they had attracted real insects.

Her compositions were set against black, a common approach for floral still life at the time, thought the backgrounds in her later paintings were often lighter.

Her works were intricately detailed, and presumably, botanically accurate; her father was an anatomist and botanist who illustrated his own catalog of specimens.

Ruysch was apprenticed to well known flower painter Willem van Aeist at age fifteen, and her early work very much shows his influence.

She married portrait artist Juriaen Pool, one of her sisters also married a painter and another, a maker of paints.

Her work is best viewed in detail, which you can do with a couple of pieces in the Rijksmuseum, one in National Gallery, UK, and one on Google Art Project.


Vasari Classic Artists’ Oil Colors

Vasari Classic Artists' Oil Colors, Alla Prima Pochade painting box
Most artists who work in oils recognize three general grades of oil paints. For lack of better terms, they can be called student grade, artist grade and premium grade. There are numerous levels of variation within those categories, of course, but they will do as a generalization.

In student grade paints, the price is kept to a minimum and an attempt is often made to keep a level of price consistency across most colors, both by using fillers and extenders in the paints and by substituting “hues” for expensive pigments.

(When you see the word “hue” in the name of an oil paint, it means a substitute for a particular pigment, created by trying to match that pigment’s hue with other, often cheaper pigments, sometimes mixtures of two or more. For example, paint labeled “Cadmium Yellow” is made with cadmium sulfide, an expensive material that produces a beautiful color with excellent covering strength; but “Cadmium Yellow Hue” is made with materials other than cadmium, like arylide, that are modified to initially look like Cadmium Yellow out of the tube, but in use produce a weaker, less desirable color.)

Some examples of familiar student grade oil paints would be Winsor & Newtons’ “Winton” line, or Grumbacher’s “Academy” student grade paints.

The middle level, “artist grade” would correspond to Winsor & Newton’s more familiar “Artist’s” line of oil colors, or those by Gamblin or Holbein. These are noticeably more expensive than student grade paints, and within any of these lines, the range of prices for different pigments within the same brand varies more dramatically, reflecting the varying cost of the actual pigments.

These are the most familiar oil paints. They have fewer fillers or extenders than student grade paints, though there is often some adulteration to facilitate machine-filling of tubes or to maintain a price point for competition within the larger art materials market.

The third level is perhaps less familiar to some, and that is premium grade artist’s oil colors. In these, the manufacturers compete more on quality and reputation than on price, working to produce paints that are more pure combinations of pigment and oil, using higher quality materials and taking greater pains in the preparation and grinding of the pigments. Often the tubes must be filed by hand when additives intended to make machine filling practical are eschewed.

Familiar names in this category might be brands like Old Holland or Williamsburg. They sell at a premium price, often considerably more expensive than the mass market “artist’s” colors, and the difference in price between expensive and inexpensive pigments within a given brand (e.g. between cobalt colors and earth colors) is even more dramatic.

I think most experienced painters have learned that student grade paints are seldom the bargain they are positioned as, their much weaker pigments actually require more paint to produce a similar effect in mixtures, and they often evidence an overall dullness of color and less than desirable handling characteristics. “Hue” colors in particular, are usually much weaker than their nominal genuine pigment counterparts.

Many painters, though, find a similar value in using premium grade paints over the more common artists grade, with an apparently similar valuation of the latter as false economy. They find the more intensely pigmented formulations and handling characteristics of premium oil colors worth the higher initial cost.

Others will insist that the main difference in premium grade paints is just marketing and branding, and don’t see a difference in value worth the expenditure (and will sometimes be quite adamant about it).

Some will pick and choose particular colors from one range or the other, as they prefer certain colors by certain paintmakers and find them individually worth the expense. (There are also proprietary colors, mixtures formulated by particular paintmakers that are not offered by others.)

Until recently, my personal experience had been limited to the first two grades of oil colors, understanding the value of using artist grade paints over student grade, but thinking of the premium colors as an unnecessary luxury — nice if you can afford it, but not likely to make enough of a difference in the practical sense to justify the expense on my part — basically an “Audi vs. Toyota” kind of difference.

There is something to be said, however, for making your judgment after having driven an Audi and then going back to driving a Toyota. Similarly, I’ve found that having had the opportunity to work with premium artists oil paints has changed my attitude about their value.

The paints I’ve had the opportunity to work with are from a small independent paintmaker called Vasari Classic Artists’ Oil Colors, and here I must make a disclaimer.

Vasari Classic Artists' Oil Colors

Though I was familiar with them by name, my experience in actually using Vasari’s paints came about as the result of being hired in my capacity as a website designer to design a new website for them. Their current site is the one I designed (image above). So there is, of course, no way I can claim to be impartial. They are my client.

That being said, I think most readers of Lines and Colors know that I rarely mention something in my posts unless I actually think it’s of value, and I pretty much shoot straight from the hip, so you can balance those factors out and make your own judgment.

Vasari is in many circles the highest ranked of the premium oil paint makers, commanding a premium price and available only through their website (with a $100 minimum order) or at their one retail store in NY, but not in chain stores, catalogs or online art supply companies. They are smaller than most, and devote their efforts only to making oil colors, no other art materials or types of paints.

In the course of an initial meeting with Stephen Salek, the founder and principal paintmaker behind Vasari, he asked about what paints, and specifically what colors I use. Shortly thereafter, I received a box from Vasari in which he had sent me samples of his versions of the colors in my regular palette (which are fairly common), with, I thought, the intention of seeing if they would convince me of the superior quality of his paint while I was in the process of working on his website.

Vasari Classic Artists' Oil Colors

So I set out my usual palette using their colors to give them a test drive. I suppose I was expecting to notice some small difference between their paint and the regular artist grade I have been used to, but I frankly wasn’t thinking it would be dramatic.

I was wrong. I was surprised. I was delighted.

The paints handle with a smooth consistency quite unlike other paints I’ve used. The colors have a vibrancy and subtle strength that kept me fascinated with them.

For the first couple of weeks, in fact, it was a bit distracting. I would be mixing colors while painting and find myself getting lost in just mixing and playing with the colors. I would be in the process of mixing a color and stop partway through, thinking “That’s not the color I’m trying to mix yet, but OMG that’s a beautiful color!”

After working with the initial set of colors for a while, I turned around and bought another box of their paint, filling out from my normal limited palette of six colors to my extended one of twelve, dying to see what their Cobalt Blue and Transparent Red Oxide were like, fascinated with my paints in a way that I haven’t experienced since I was in art school.

Since then, I have tried going back to my other paints and found it disappointing, and I have to say that I’m now rather spoiled. Not only are these paints wonderful to work with, I see a difference in the surface quality and color of my finished paintings.

Of course, using premium paint won’t necessarily make someone a better painter, any more than better brushes or higher quality canvas. A good artist can make a good painting with cheap materials — but it will be more difficult. If I have the option of using the best materials I can get, why not take advantage of them?

I’m not suggesting that everyone run out and buy premium oil paints; their relevance to any individual artist will inevitably depend on each artist’s values and personality — i.e. “Your milage may vary.” I’m just reporting on my personal experience.

Some will fall on the side of not finding the difference significant enough, but some may find the experience an eye-opener, as I did.

To be clear, I don’t mean to intimate here that regular mass market artists grade oil paints are somehow “bad” or inadequate, just that there is value in the difference found in premium paints.

I should also point out that the Vasari Classic Artists’ Oil Colors are the only premium oil paints I’ve worked with to any significant extent, so I can’t make any across the range comparisons. However, I have done some reading in artist forums and blogs about comparisons between premium brands, and have found that when Vasari is mentioned, they’re generally at the top of the list of premium artists’ oil colors.

The take-away is simply that in my experience there is a significant difference between regular artist grade oil colors and premium colors like Vasari; and that if you have the opportunity to try them (and aren’t afraid of being spoiled), they may well be worth a look.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I want to get back to playing with these beautiful colors… oh yes, and painting.


Victor Nizovtsev

Victor Nizovtsev
Victor Nizovtsev was born in Russia and studied at the Ilia Repin Collge for Art in Chisinau, Moldavia and the Vera Muhina University for Industrial Arts in St. Petersburg. He now lives in the U.S. in Maryland.

His paintings have some of the narrative character of Golden Age children’s book illustration, and draw on influences from Art Nouveau, Symbolist and other 19th century painters (in particular John Singer Sargent’s Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose), but have a contemporary feel.

His subjects include repeated dream-like themes of mermaids, floating lanterns, colorful jesters, playing card kings and queens, storybook villages and playful children. These are arranged in seemingly narrative compositions and portrayed in vibrant color with wonderful elements of texture, at times reminiscent of Gustav Klimt’s decorative textural areas.

I haven’t been able to find a dedicated site or blog for Nizovtsev, but his work is represented by at least two galleries, and there are several mentions of his work on other blogs and art sites.

The McBride Gallery in Anapolis, MD, seems to be his primary gallery, offering both originals and giclee prints, and including some bio information on their site. There are several pages of images (though some links are broken).

His work is reproduced larger elsewhere, however, such at Tutt’ Art and Inspirations. I’ve listed what other sources I could find below.

[Suggestion courtesy of Tim Poorman]