2018 was a monumental year for Master Oil Painting and our impressive community of artists!

This is our chance to reflect back on the year and discuss some of the amazing things that have happened to us. We’ll talk about the excitement of Joe Anna Arnett joining us as a guest instructor, the incredible Blank Canvas Interviews we’ve had, training that we’ve shared, and more.

I love being able to share a few of my favorite highlights from the year, and it would be great to hear what stood out to you in 2018!

Guest Artist Training Video

This has to be top on my list of amazing things that happened this year. Joe Anna Arnett added her gorgeous Lilacs oil painting instruction video to The Membership training library.

Since June, when her video was first added to the library, several hundred members have studied and learned from her masterful style of painting and teaching.

What did you think of her video?

If you haven’t seen her full video yet then be sure to join The Membership and check it out, along with dozens of other art training videos.

Spoiler alert – Joe Anna was the first guest artist to be added to The Membership video library, but keep an eye out because more are on their way!

Already a Member? You can view her video, along with dozens of others, in the Membership Training Library.

Blank Canvas Interviews

Of the dozens of blog-posts we’ve shared in 2018 my favorites are the Blank Canvas interviews. I absolutely love to learn about the struggles, triumphs, challenges, and lives of other master artists.

Here is a selection of my favorites from the year.

Peter Fiore

This interview has been shared over 500 times since it was published 6 months ago!

Tangled 50x50 inch – oil painting by Peter Fiore
Tangled 50×50 inch – oil painting by Peter Fiore (source)

Peter Fiore told us about being “in Newfoundland chasing down icebergs for a new body of work.” A passionate and eloquent art advocate he shared with us what draws him to paint such intriguing subjects.

“I’m always searching for a motif that will allow me to explore light and color and emotion. The location doesn’t convince me, it’s only after making studies and some smaller paintings that I know what any subject can yield. Once I’ve discovered a location that could yield something, I’ll go back and visit it many times — different times of day, different seasons and different weather. All have a tremendous impact on what that something can be.

I’m not looking for the final painting at this point, as in “this is what I’m going to paint”, but rather to learn a subject in greater detail so that I can create what I want it to be rather than what it is — a visual re-orchestration.”

John Pototschnik

Advancing Night 30x24 – oil painting by John Pototschnik
Advancing Night 30×24 – oil painting by John Pototschnik (source)

John Pototschnik, a humble and faith-filled oil painting master, generously taught us about the ‘building blocks’ or universal truths he follows to create his paintings. He talks us through his process and motivation in the video about Be Still My Soul – an oil painting that won the Silver Medal at the Oil Painters of America (OPA) National Show.

As a national juror himself, he also helped us know what jurors are looking for:

“When judging, I first assessed the overall appeal and quality of the work. This was somewhat subjective, but upon more critical analysis I placed greater emphasis on drawing (accurate proportions and perspective, and a convincing representation of the subject in space), composition (balanced organization of the subject), values (an unequal and beautiful distribution of lights and darks throughout the painting). I have found that if these three elements are dead on, the rest usually are as well.”

Cyrus Afsary

Fire in the Hole 30x40 – oil painting by Cyrus Afsary
Fire in the Hole 30×40 – oil painting by Cyrus Afsary (source)

We heard about Cyrus Afsary’s Russian Realist art training before emigrating to the United States and his counsel to focus on “the strict training of developing the draftsman skills.”

“The most important aspect is practice and experimenting with the colors.

I paint from both life and use photos as a reference. The coloration is certainly something that has always been enjoyable when I see it all coming together on the canvas.

There are times I look back at my early paintings, and they evoke memories of my life and the development of my work. When I left for America I had brushes and paints but no photos of my early work. It has been rewarding for me to receive photos of my early work from collectors asking for more information on the subjects. And also needing confirmation that in fact, I am the artist, because the early work was signed with an S instead of a C.”

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James Gurney

Aftermath, casein, 12 x 16 by James Gurney. Painted on location at a construction site, a fast-food streetscape, and a police station

“I don’t really draw a distinction in my mind between “fine-art painting” and “illustration,” or between “fine-art” and “fantasy.” All are created in the studio; all are drawn from the imagination; and all follow more or less the same procedure.

Whether it’s landscape paintings for a gallery or dinosaur paintings for a science magazine, an artist’s approach can be either inspired or commercial, depending on what frame of mind we bring to the easel. There’s nothing intrinsically “fine” about gallery work; in fact, it can be —and often is—far more commercial than illustration in the sense that an artist is always facing the consciousness of which images sell and why. I’ve never met a gallery artist who honestly doesn’t care about which of his paintings sell.

A more meaningful division for me is between observational work and studio work—or you might say: plein-air versus imagination, outdoor work versus indoor work, the outer eye versus the inner eye. Both aspects of the artistic life are essential to me, and always have been.”

Ezra Tucker

Silent Measure 24×48 by Ezra Tucker

“I have had the opportunity to observe creatures large and small over time to see that they all have unique and different temperaments and moods that influence how they interact with each other within their species and how each creature goes through the process of survival. I also observe Humans displaying temperaments and moods that determine the choices that they make and the quality of their existence. Dominance and submissive behavior for example.

My observations of animal and human behaviors are simply a personal interest. Acute listening and observation is helpful to me gaining knowledge about my subjects so that the results of my representations satisfy my vision or the concept that I am wanting to share with a viewer.”

Susan Lyon

Chance Meeting On the Road To Shangri-La 24 x 18 – oil painting by Susan Lyon
Chance Meeting On the Road To Shangri-La 24 x 18 – oil painting by Susan Lyon (source)

Susan Lyon shared how she successfully blends experimental materials with her exquisite draftsmanship to create magical pieces.

She states “I have been inspired by artists that use mix media and knew that was the path for me. I think sooner or later galleries and museum shows will embrace unique types of work. I feel collectors want a choice.”

Joseph Lorusso

A Familiar Tune 26x24 – oil painting by Joseph Lorusso
A Familiar Tune 26×24 – oil painting by Joseph Lorusso (source)

Joseph Lorusso encouraged us to create “paintings that tell a story of some kind. While I admire an artist’s technical proficiency and academic virtuosity, I’m instantly drawn to a painting that draws me into it as a participant, so naturally I wanted to paint narrative pieces.

I admire a great landscape or a painting of wildlife, but my feeling is that people are most immediately connected to images of things they can readily relate to, namely paintings of people, and more specifically people doing things or engaging in activities and experiences that most of us have had. Most of us have been in a café or had a contemplative moment, so these are scenes that have resonance that others can not only relate to but more importantly empathize with.”

Step by Step Art Instruction

Art Instruction was also shared freely and often through our blog. I love how often I receive emails, messages, and comments from our community telling me how useful these have been for them, like this one:

Woke up early this morning, so much going on in my life. Clicked onto your email, and enjoyed the wonderful step by step comments. It made me think of what I am thinking when I see something to paint. I will be using these techniques more now.

Joann (Farmstead with barns)

Farmstead with Barns

After the Storm 16x20 – oil painting by Bill Inman
After the Storm 16×20 – oil painting by Bill Inman

When I saw this farm I was driving on a well-traveled road that had small sloping banks. The scene appeared as I came over the rise of a hill. It had rained steadily for two days, but at that moment the sun broke through and glistened off the wet roofs and landscape.

It looked like a postcard – the kind designed to convince you to “move here where life is always ideal and peaceful”.   

Step 1

Since there wasn’t a strong dark value pattern to worry about, I jumped right in with the correct sky value. Often, I will avoid white at the start to keep my dark values clean. It’s a lot of fun when I get to mix the values correctly right away.

There are some dark shapes to think about like a few barns and a pine tree. Those shapes are so small compared to the larger and brighter sky and landscape shapes that it’s easier to get the large shapes painted first. Then when ready, you can simply scrape the sky paint off where a building is being added.

I also wanted to use white immediately and get the value correct so I could play with thick textured paint in the storm clouds and grasses.

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms 6x8 – oil painting by Bill Inman
Cherry Blossoms 6×8 – oil painting by Bill Inman

When we moved to Indiana from the West we were delighted that first Spring to see the trees burst forth with color and beauty.

From Magnolias and daffodils to cherry blossoms and peonies, our entire city seemed alive and vibrant.

Step 1

I began with a warm Transparent Oxide Red underlayer. I knew the light-drenched petals would be on the warmer side. Further along with the painting, having warm orangish bits of color drifting through the layers of paint would suggest petals in the background without actually painting them.

Mountain Forest

Misty Mountain 20x24 – oil painting by Bill Inman
Misty Mountain 20×24 – oil painting by Bill Inman

An easy formula for copying how I paint is not the point to any of my training videos, workshops or oil painting tips. Learning to paint masterfully is a journey that takes a lifetime of study, observation of nature and painting like crazy – every possible day we can.

Painting well is incredibly challenging, and the pursuit of mastery is oh so much fun precisely because it requires so much from us.

Step 1

That trowel has been used to prime my panels from time to time, but this was the first time it was used to begin one of my paintings.

It was the rich red, orange and yellow fall leaves in my reference photos that inspired the idea.

I’ve been playing and experimenting with texture since I first learned oil painting in the mid 80’s – both the thin texture that comes from a dry-brush stroke, and texture created by applying thick paint.

All that beautiful fall foliage just begged to be painted with thick textured strokes.

An idea came to me to see if starting with a bunch of thick white paint would help create the wonderfully textured leaves and branches I had in my mind.

I figured, instead of mixing those fall colors on my palette, I could skip a step and simply mix them all right on my panel.

So, I took Gamblin’s titanium white straight from the tube and covered the top half of my panel using a 2” putty knife.

The 31 Top Composition Concepts

The Sinister-Diagonal-duo intersects at the foreground figure’s forehead. Both images courtesy of
The Sinister-Diagonal-duo intersects at the foreground figure’s forehead. Both images courtesy of

This doesn’t really count as a Step-by-Step post, but it’s hugely helpful to study alongside them. I think this may be the largest and most comprehensive blog post I’ve ever written, and it took almost a month to finalize.

Gaining a useful grasp of the principles of design can certainly help your paintings. However, keep in mind that using principles and techniques as if they are rigid rules will squish the imagination and power right out of your paintings.

Composition or design is simply the intelligent and creative combining of the many tools we use as painters to tell our story. Tools such as line, shape, color, value, edges, S-Curve, Dynamic Symmetry, mass, pattern, unity, etc.

The more complete our understanding of the myriad ideas and techniques of design, the more powerfully we can share our vision of the world with our viewers. It’s a good idea to remember what Richard Schmid says, “what we are seeing when we are attracted to striking designs is simply artists’ ingenious solutions to their particular problems of arrangement.”

If we fall into the trap of thinking these ideas are somehow mystical or absolute, then our paintings will look like everyone else’s who think the same way.

New Store Launched

This was an exciting upgrade for the Master Oil Painting community and website.

We work exceptionally hard to produce the best free and paid art training available anywhere in the world, but until 2018 our website didn’t make it easy enough to find.

Thank to feedback from thousands of awesome members we were able to put together a very simple way to browse all of the awesome premium paid training we’ve produced. We made finding all of our free art training easier too, but more on that later.

Art Tool Reviews

I talked about a few of my most useful art tools this year, including a new framing company that blew away my old favorites and a massive paintbrush experiment that I underwent.

Here’s some that you might find valuable as you continue painting in 2019.

Framing Paintings for Gallery Success

Art Framing High Quality frames vs mass produced

Framing has been a source of frustration my entire career as an artist for several reasons. In this blog I will tell you about those reasons and the clarity that came to me recently at the Broadmoor Galleries while talking with John Marzolf, the owner.

In 1989, my last year in art school, I purchased a painting done as a demo for class from one of my favorite professors, Arlo Coles. He was an incredible impressionist painter – very expressive and deliberate with his colors and brushstrokes…

The Ultimate Paintbrush Experiment

Paint brushes – which brand or style works best, and how many do I actually need?

I conducted a year-long experiment, involving 7 of the top brands and more than 30 individual brushes, to find those answers.

Today I’ll cover why I ran the experiment, introduce the brands and brushes used, breakdown the results of the experiment, and then reveal the overall winning brand!

Professional Oil Painter’s Supplies List

A ‘supplies list’ is requested repeatedly by artists in our community – especially beginners who are struggling with where to start. So, here’s a list of the supplies and companies I use to paint both in the studio and plein air.

Now, what works for me might not be exactly what you need – experiment – after more than 30 years I still like to try out new tools, brushes and paint.

Use the highest quality materials you can – professional rather than student grade – it will greatly speed up the learning process. In case you’re concerned about cost, I’ll include some ‘budget’ friendly ideas as well.

Shows and Events

My favorite event was the Plein Air Paint Out at the Broadmoor Hotel. It was such a beautiful experience!

Paintings produced on location by artists during the Plein Air Paint Out at the Broadmoor Galleries
Paintings produced on location by artists during the Plein Air Paint Out at the Broadmoor Galleries

I just realized I never shared anything about the show on our blog though, so I don’t actually have a post to share for this…

Good news though – the Broadmoor Galleries hopes to make it a yearly event, so I should be able to tell you more about it this year.

2 Man Show – Booth Western Art Museum

Danni standing next to Grey’s River by Scott Christensen at the Booth Western Art Museum
Danni standing next to Grey’s River by Scott Christensen at the Booth Western Art Museum

When we pulled into the small town of Cartersville we wondered if Google Maps had misled us.

“They wouldn’t build a major museum in a small town like this would they?” I mumbled to myself.

Oh yeah they would – and it turns out, it’s the largest Western Art Museum in the world. It was founded by a family that loves collecting western art.

So, first I’ll show you a few of my favorite pieces from Quang Ho and Scott Christensen. Then I’ll give you a peek at some paintings from their permanent collections. Happily, when we paid for entrance they told us we could take photos of all the artwork except the Frederick Remington exhibit – how cool is that!

Plein Air Convention #PACE18

Monday, began early with a workshop by Kevin MacPherson (Kevin is really good – one of the best I’ve seen).

After that it was 2 days and nights of non-stop exceptional instructors and painting before Albert’s demo on Wednesday, with me climbing into bed between 11 pm and midnight each night.

With eyes that felt glued shut I awoke at 4:30 am, showered, made a quick Living Fuel shake and raced off to get a good seat for the Art Marketing Bootcamp that started at 6:30 am.

Free Art Training Library

This was huge for our community!

We created an entire library dedicated to free art training, and it’s packed full of professional art instruction. Every bit of it is free and you don’t even need to login to enjoy it.

It took quite a bit of work to put this together, which is why we’re thrilled so many artists have been able to enjoy it. Since we launched it a couple months ago the library has been shared 3,100 times and over 30,000 artists have been visiting it on a monthly basis.

And it keeps growing, so be sure to visit often!

Concluding Thoughts

2018 was a whirlwind year for me both professionally and personally.

Besides all the fun I had as an artist, my daughter was married in the Ogden Utah temple. My family and I participated in a Tough Mudder competition. Kristie and I got to go on our first cruise and our daughter Aurora returned from her 18-month church mission in France.

My daughter Tawnymara and her husband Dallin on their wedding day

2018 was a lot of work and seriously wore me out physically and emotionally, but it was one of the most joy-filled years of my life.

Thank you all for bringing my family so much light and beauty by sharing your art with us. Thank you as well for making possible this incredible opportunity to teach artists around the world. I truly feel honored to be one of your teachers.

You help make this world a wonderful place to be, and I look forward to continued growth with you in 2019!

Happy painting!