Portfolio Link

Should you be interested in viewing a more "formal" portfolio site, please visit: http://www.carlverster.com

Friday, April 30, 2010


I have five WIPs on the boil at the moment ... will post soon soon ... :)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

So ... You STILL want to be a painter?

     If I haven't bored you to death already with the last two posts, then this one might do the trick. ;)

    I promised to give you a few practical pointers in this post. This isn't meant to be an exhaustive list of A-Z of painting, it is really just a collection of 'things' that I would tell you if you bought me a coffee (imagine what I might tell you if you bought me a good single malt!) and said "Hey ... tell me some of the stuff you've learned in your journey so far." Here are my thoughts ... but first read the fine print.
    (Fine Print: I am self taught, have never taken an art course in my life and I DON'T know what the hell I'm doing pretty much most of the time. I just do what I do because it seems to work for me. This is NOT professional advice, it's just my own random thoughts, beliefs and things that seem to work for me scrawled down in a very haphazard, hail fellow well met and unprofessional way. Take EVERYTHING I say with a healthy pinch of salt, two disprin and call me in the morning. As with anything you hear from another painter, try what I say, see if it works for you and either use it or don't and move on. I learn something new with every painting I do, and stuff I believe to be "right" today is bound to be shown up as completely wrong tomorrow.)

    Right ... with that out the way I can start bending your proverbial ear.

    These are some of the things that would have been helpful to know when I started my painting journey, some things that I believe to be true, and some things I have picked up along the way.

    You could substitute that sub heading with "try and know your shit". If you are going to paint something, at least know what it looks like. Sure, decide to break the natural law and paint what you feel, manipulate it, distort it whatever, by all means, but do it with intent, know how it should look and behave and know why you didn't do it that way. If you try and paint something as you see it and don't get it right, passing it off as an "effect" is as transparent as the turps you are cleaning your brush in ... people will see you for the hack you are and you will be laughed and pointed at. You don't need that. Do your homework. Understand your subject, and understand the science of colour you are going to use to render it. Doing this is a sure fire way of keeping your standards high and your progression constant. We have Google ... there is no excuse.

    Understand colour
    Try to get away from it ... I dare you! You can run as fast as you can in the opposite direction from colour knowledge, it will still catch up to you and bite you in the tenders. If you don't understand colour you are as good as a deaf composer (I said a deaf composer, not the deaf composer ... you are not Beethoven!). Colour wheels are your friend ... learn them until you see them when you close your eyes. Seriously, I can't emphasise this enough ... its a pain in the butt, but understanding colour is one of the best things you can do to boost yourself forward. I tried to pretend it wasn't important  ... I failed. You can't paint monochrome for the rest of your life now can you? I would say learn from my mistakes, but you won't ... it's a pain, so you won't take the time to do it ... you will try to get by without it ... but read my imaginary lips, you will find that you need that knowledge and either learn it the hard way or the really hard way. ... and yes, I'm still learning it the really hard way.

    Become a good draughtsman
    Being able to draw is a real boon. If you can draw then you understand form, tone, perspective and proportion. These are all really useful weapons in your artistic arsenal. The thing about drawing that is even more beneficial than these, is it helps you understand light!

    Liz - Quick Concept Study Sketch (for family portrait painting)

    Paint with light, not colour
    I don't know how else to explain this. The reason you need to understand colour is that you need to know what colour to use to paint light ... how light touches things, how it wraps around things and bounces off things. I am convinced that the best painters paint light; not form, not colour ... light.

    Keep your brushes clean!
    Folks, these are the tools of your trade. If you chop down trees ,you keep your axe sharp;  if you're a  hunter, you make sure your rifle is clean and oiled; if you're a  runner, you make sure you keep your body fit; if you are a surgeon, you make sure your liability insurance is in place and if you are a municipal clerk, you  ... well you don't do anything, ... where was I? Oh yes ... dirty, damaged brushes are simply a disaster waiting to happen. Look after your brushes and they will look after you. Clean them every time you are finished with them ... every time. It doesn't matter if it's 3am, you have fallen asleep at the easel and you just want to find your bed ... take the time and clean them. The amount of brushes I have destroyed and thrown away! It shames to to think how much money I have wasted. Clean them my friend ... just trust me on this.

    Being unique is great. Being really, really good is better.
    That's all I have to say about that!

    Practice practice practice
    The way to get really good is to practice. Once you are really good, then you can get unique.
    I have heard stories of gallery owners and art critics saying that you haven't learned the craft until you've painted at least 100 pieces.  The figure is immaterial, the volume is not. The more you paint the better you will get.  You WILL look back at your earlier work and marvel at your then levels of complete ineptitude, smile smugly to yourself and congratulate yourself on your improvement. In another (insert quantity here) paintings time you will do it again ... the more you paint, the quicker you can do that, and the more often you get to feel smug. You're a painter, so paint for Pete's sake!

    Yes it helps. No it's not imperative. Yes you can learn it. ... and yes you can fake it.
    I will tell anyone who asks that I have never had an original thought in my life. Never!

    Passion will cover up a multitude of artistic sins. Without is you will not keep it up, and with it you will wear everyone else down. No ... you cannot learn passion and you cannot fake it (for very long). If you are not passionate about painting, work out what you are passionate about and do that instead.
    If you are determined to ignore me on this point, at least keep my address handy so you can post me all the material you have bought but are going to be bored with in three paintings time. :)

    Stop caring what people think!!!

    Carl is:

    Tuesday, April 20, 2010

    So you want to paint? ... cont.

    Yesterday I pointed out that there are things you might want to work out before you do a course. (if you decide to do a course). Although this is true, you will in fact have to tackle these questions whether you do a course or not if you're planning on painting.
    • What medium do you want to use. (yes that IS a huge deal)
    Deciding on the medium you want to paint with is a big deal. If there is a certain "look" that you are wanting your paintings to achieve you are going to have that somewhat dictate what medium you use (to a degree of course); but there are other things to consider. Let me talk about the three most common painting mediums, oil paints, acrylics and watercolours (There are a BUNCH of others too, but these are the biggies). Each has their own unique properties, their strengths, weaknesses, benefits and difficulties. I'll tell you my feelings about each.

    Watercolours are amazing to work with ... they are almost magical in the effects that can be created. They are quick, they are clean and they are VERY unforgiving. My mother is an amazing watercolour painter ... She doesn't have the guts to show her work to the world, but she has what I don't ... the metal to work with the medium.  I have painted with watercolours before and I view it as the artistic equivalent of tightrope walking without a safety net. One mistake and your painting is a pretty much a writeoff ... because of the transparence, permanence and quick drying nature of watercolour there is usually no correcting or covering your mistake. the plus is that the materials are economical, the results instantaneous and, big plus it's easy to clean up afterward. This is not a medium you will master overnight ... be prepared to take it slow. You will need a solid understanding of the science of colour and patience, patience, patience.

    Oil paintings (my weapon if choice) is almost the exact opposite of watercolours... an anti-watercolour if you will.  Where watercolours are quick, oils are slow, where watercolours are tranparent, oils are pretty much opaque, where they are unforgiving, oils are almost completely forgiving, almost infinitely reworkable. Almost any effect is doable with oils ... BUT they are generally slooooooooow to work with and an absolute bitch when it comes to cleaning brushes etc. Trust me on this ... a complete and utter pain in the butt. Mineral Turpentine, linseed oil bla bla bla bla bla ... groan! Oil is a demanding mistress, but the rewards are sweet ... it's like having a superpower ... ANYTHING can be achieved with the right skills and knowledge!

    Now acrylics are the happy medium (yes, pun intended) between watercolour and oil. No mess, quicker than oils, but slower to dry than watercolours, tranluscent if you like, or completely opaque, used with linseed oil or retarder can be "moulded" in a very oil like fasion, are cheap.  The only downside of oils in my mind is the fact that they somehow lack the soul of oils ... there is something vibrant and alive in oils that acrylics just doesn't seem to muster.
    In summary though ... acrylics are a great starting medium, especially if you are going it alone.
    • What you want to paint. (still lives, landscape, portraits, eveything?)
    The only reason I say you should consider this before doing a course is that you should pick your chosen master by your subject as well as your preferred medium. Subject types have their own "laws", and if you are going to study under someone, pick someone who is dedicated to the type of painting you want to do its practical and expedient. (Obviously if you want to do it all, pick accordingly too.)
    • Who you want to paint like?(a strange thing to say I know ... but I have my reasons).
    We all have our hero's.  I know the artists I aspire to. It changes, as I progress, as my experience moulds me as a painter. If you are going to do a course, go to classes, study, I imagine it would be much more gratifying to learn in the style you aspire to.  To spell it out with an example. You sign up for a class in oils. You want to paint in the style of the dutch masters, but the course teacher you have picked is a abstract artist who focuses on the pallet knife rather than the brush. No doubt you will learn much, but it is not going to speed you on your way to becoming the next Vermeer. I can honestly say I have learned more about the nature of painting from disecting what my painting idols have done than from any book I have read. No doubt the same would apply from a course perspective.

    Okay ... next post I go a bit deeper into any actual practical tips I can offer. I'm off to paint.

    Carl is:
    • Reading this (just started)
    • Recommending you listen to this special song off this album
    • Wondering if I'll ever sleep again.

    Monday, April 19, 2010

    So you want to paint ...?

    An old schoolfriend ... that just sounds wrong ... let me start that again .... a friend that I was a school with, who is just as young as I am, dropped me a message on FaceBook to ask, "Have you got any advice for me? What should I do to learn about painting?"

    Well, I asked her why she wanted to learn. If one has aspirations of becoming a famous and wealthy artist, I really wouldn't know how to go about it. What I do know is that whatever you paint, however bad or good you are, or think you are, is likely to impress your family and friends who want the best for you and are probably too subjective to tell you what you need to hear; is likely to be spurned by galleries and collectors, who are looking for big names that sell; and is likely to be looked on with complete disinterest by your peers. If you were expecting something different, find a Hollywood actor to marry, it's an easier route to the red carpet. If however you paint because you ARE a painter; because you are DRIVEN to paint; because if you don't paint you go insane, and because when you don't paint you start having nightmares that Dali has abducted your children and is melting them all over the landscape, then painting is for you!

    Fortunately our subject's answer to my question was a solid one: "I've always wanted to. I've feel like its in me but I have never got around to doing anything about it. Painted furniture and houses and love Paint itself. Wish I could use it to express myself and also create something that's speaks to me. Need to get it out there. Wouldn't know which paint to even start with. Doesn't have to be a profession but I want how to do it right so I can get the effect I want" .

    Anyway, I thought that it would be an interesting blogging topic series.  Oddly enough (well, maybe not odd to you, but odd to me) it is a question I get asked relatively frequently. I say odd to me, because I don't actually know a heck of a lot about painting except what I have learned from my own experience. I am totally self taught, having never done a course or studied art and so it is likely that everything I have learned is "wrong". BUT I am not adverse to offering my opinions and dispensing whatever information I can (even if it's on things I only know a little about. ;) ).

    So, over the next few days I will post my thoughts revolving around certain topics in the "advice" sphere. ... starting with courses.

    Should I do a course?
    Well ... I learn best through trial and error. Some people can't abide it; for me, well, that's the quickest route to rewiring my brain to do something it wasn't programmed to do. I experiment, get it wrong lots and eventually find something that works. Once it's learned it's there for good. Having said that, if I'd done courses, studied etc. I'd probably be a much better painter, and got to this point a hell of a lot quicker ... learning from someone elses mistakes is not a bad way to go (but never accept it as law ... teachers can only show you what they know ... and they don't know everything). So if you are a "course" type person, and you can find one with someone who knows what they're doing, go for it!

    Things you might want to work out before you do a course? (... and I'll cover these next post):
    • What medium do you want to use. (yes that IS a huge deal)
    • What you want to paint. (still lives, landscape, portraits, eveything?)
    • Who you want to paint like.(a strange thing to say I know ... but I have my reasons).
     ... but more of that tomorrow.

    I hope you find this constructive. If not well ... hey ... you can't say I didn't try.

     "Vacant Stare" (WIP), 20cm x 20cm, Oil on Canvas
    Carl is:
    • Keeping himself very distracted by working really really hard.
    • Listening to this album (this song ... best played at high volume)
    • Watching this movie again
    • Reading this book 
    • Hanging with Rembrandt ... she's a pet rat)

    Saturday, April 17, 2010


    "Take Heart"; Oil on Canvas, 20cm x 20cm x 20cm

    Romans 8:38-39
    "And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. "

    Carl is:
    • Still praying!!!
    • Watching this movie (a classic, but hectic!)
    • Listening to this (a lot... beautiful!)

    Friday, April 16, 2010

    Fragile Thing

    "A Savage Fragile Thing"
    120cm x 60cm
    Oil on Canvas

     Carl is:
    • Praying SO hard.

    Thursday, April 15, 2010

    Queen of the Night

    This is the completed UK commission (excluding signature) that I have been working of for some time. 

    The client was quite specific as to the elements that he wanted in this unique extended family portrait, but at the same time he gave me plenty of leeway in how it was represented, laid out , style etc. I took the liberty of doing it like an English School period 18th century piece, and as you can see, it is  somewhat romanticised. Technology is REALLY letting me down. First no Internet and now my camera seems to have finally called it quits. Here are some really crappy photo's for you to get a sense of how it looks. (The photo's really are terrible blurry as all hell, but the best of the lot, and at least you can have a look at my painting zone too. ;) ... I will try and take a better shot again later and replace these).

    "Queen of the Night"
    150cm x 75cm x 4cm
    Oil on Canvas

    Wednesday, April 14, 2010

    Crazy Painter!

    I'm typing this offline again ... still no internet. (I think it's heading into weeks now ... I started writing this when I was battling to paint last week!).
    The other day a good friend of mine wrote to me saying "I loved reading yr blog, btw, ...  Man, you’re a mess at times". She's right.  I told her so. My reply was, "Yes .. I know I'm a mess at times ... I know I am".
    You see, I used to think it was smart to just keep all the things going on in my head and things I was feeling quiet and that people would think less of me if they knew I was such a mess ... it's probably true, but at some point I just stopped caring very much what people think. So ... I apologise if I wear my heart on my sleeve from time to time. If you don't like it ... don't read it. :) I used to keep my world very tidy, make sure no-one thinks badly of me, keep it together, make sure you always look like you have it all under control, but it doesn't take much for one's little house of cards to come tumbling down, does it? The world is cruel; we are sinners; our "baggage" catches up with us, life is just one massive challenge, letdown, victory, disaster, burst of joy, tragedy, celebration and challenge all over again and again and again, isn't it? Nobody escapes unscathed.

    So ... where am I going with all of this?
    No need to haul out your GPS, because this isn't that oblique (I never really am). My friend's closing thought was that seeing me being a mess at times was "a relief". Why? Because she is a mess too.
    We are ALL messed up from time to time, aren't we? (Courtesy of everything mentioned above.) Fortunately for me being a painter means I can turn all my accumulated angst into something productive. Hey, being a messed up artist is kinda expected isn't it? It's almost a prerequisite for a painter! Sort of an occupational hazard.  ... and if it helps sell a painting from time to time, well then that's at least one positive spin off! :)

    BUT ... being messed up shouldn't define us though ... we can't allow it to ... it's how we respond to it, what we do with it that defines us. (and I'm the first to admit that I hardly ever get that response right ... okay ... mostly never).
    Life can be really complicated, and when it does get too much I find it useful to reduce it to absolutes ... it boils down to this ...reminding ones self to trust God (this is ALL about Him anyway), pray, pray, pray, and get up every day and doing what you do, like running a marathon ... just keep moving forward (yes ... running helps keep me sane too). Maybe Nike had it right when they said "Just DO it!" Sometimes that's our only choice.

    Carl is:
    • wrapping up THE comission (last glazing ... will post picture tonight ... if I have internet access)
    • planning the paintings in response to yesterdays game
    • listening to inspiring music from this album

    Monday, April 12, 2010

    Play a game with me ...

    What a shocking week ... I have been without broadband for a week and it has been killing me! I feel like I've lost a limb ... bereft of my link to the world! I'm still without a line so I'll type this offline and post when I hit an internet zone.

    So play a game with me dear blog reader ... give me a painting title ... your OWN painting title ... I will pick the one (or ones) I like and will paint my own interpretation of that title.  Be as creative as you like ... let's see what I produce. Post your suggested title in the comments of this blog post. Sound like fun?
     Just some paintings I am working on ...
    Anyway ... I found this letter on this blog of Richard Robinson while surfing last week and thought it would be nice to share. I thought this was a really nice message to a painter to reflect on.  Sentimental, sure ... but special too.  :)  

    A Letter to the Student of Painting

    By Charles Philip Brooks

    "Your day contains a great measure of freedom. Your responsibility as a painter is here within the walls of the studio and in the setting of the landscape. You have the opportunity to exercise genuine mastery at every step, and it is in this spirit of grand possibility that I hope you will reflect on the advice made plain here.
    Do not grieve too long for the troubles of the outside world. There is important work to be done here. We can best express our care for all others by attending to our work well.
    Allow yourself the peace of purpose and the knowledge that to make another attempt with the brush is a noble thing. If you accept the discipline of the truest principles of art, then yours is the reward of an unbroken line of tradition.
    Therefore, you may earnestly free your mind of all heartaches, sadness, and transitory despairs. Creation is above these things.
    Your vocation is as real and as true as any other. Those who denounce the artist as idle manifest a deep ignorance of the nature of art. Have faith that the civilized will somewhere, at some time, value your well-wrought works. It is a miracle that the world keeps its havens for art and yet it does. Know that to create art is to do a necessary piece of work. The most noble pleasures and measureless joys result from such endeavors. True art is undeniable and it is a gift for all humanity.
    The threefold responsibility of the artist is: to creation, the individual talent, and to humanity. For creation – the whole of nature – we must cultivate prayerful awe. This is our source of work and our refuge as well. We should seek harmony with nature. For the individual talent – long hours and years of steady industry hope to find our abilities fulfilled, our minds, hearts, and hands put to valuable service. In this way, we maintain the sanctity of art. Lastly, we make to humanity a willing gift of all we do. Our control over the material world lasts only a lingering moment and it takes a generous soul to build the ambition of a lifetime and then to hand it over in trust to the future.
    Painting requires the bravery of solitude. Painting requires disciplined labor. To be a painter is to search the world with a benevolent eye for every subtle beauty that the infinite world offers.
    Here is the opportunity to give your honest effort and to add in any small way to the legacy of art. Cultivate patience in your heart and you will improve. Learn to see well and your hand will become sure.
    No pain or doubt can invade the honest soul engaged in the communion of creation. We artists must love the world with our deepest selves and forgive it at every turn.
    To paint even a little passage with a measure of quality is to achieve a life’s triumph.
    Spend your days wisely with the best thoughts and works of those who have walked the road before you. Search their paths, their timeless inspirations, and the lineage of their genius. Learn your craft well and your talent will mature into its full possibility. Keep an obedient heart before nature. She is the master above all other masters. Nature is the concrete manifestation of all that remains true and sublime. Let us always be thankful for her abundance and hopeful that we might approach her in our art. Nature will renew every generation of painters, ready to illuminate the minds of those who practice the art with what is calm, rational, beautiful, sublime, and eternal.
    Such is the purity of your vocation. Treat every moment before the easel as a quick and tender opportunity. Invest your most noble self. Give your most noble self. To be a painter is to enjoy a precious state of life. "
    Carl :
    • watched this (and am not sure what I thought of it ...)
    • is listening to this from this album
    • is reading this (and thinks it's awesome!)

    Friday, April 9, 2010

    Battery Powered Hamsters

    I have a studio full of blank canvases at the moment ... blank canvases and uncanvassed frames.  Then add the four WIPs. That equates to about 30 paintings that I could be doing but am not.
    "Why?" you ask ...and I know you ask not necessarily because you want to know, but because it is the polite thing to do. (Well good for you. Your Mom would be proud. Raising such a polite person...)

    The truth is I'm not sure.  I just can't paint right now and I'm not sure why. I stand in front of my easel and there is nothing ... just nothing! It feels terrible ... hollow ... I slept over ten hours the night before last and I still feel exhausted. I mean honestly! 10 hours!  That's more sleep in one night than I usually manage in a year or two!
    I just feel so vacant too ... like there is nothing inside me ... the little motivation hamster inside me is dead and the wheel isn't even rocking! Maybe it needs new batteries?
    It's really weird.
    I really NEED to get my head back in the game. Aside from commitments in terms of commissions etc. I know that it's good for me.

    Bottom line? I know what you're thinking is ... Carl, paint! That's what painters do.

    So thanks to that little encouragement, and some good recommended listening music I'm forcing myself to finish this. Hopefully it breaks me out of this silly malaise!
     "Eye of the Beholder", Oil on Canvas, 20cm x 20cm x 4cm.

    You know what? I think it's working. :)

    Carl is:
    Listening to Dido off No Angel right at this moment.
    Watching no TV at the moment.
    Reading Living the Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing again.

    Monday, April 5, 2010

    Speckled Bean Article

    Mercia Deale of Essensual Art in Clarens recently submitted an article for the April 2010 edition of the Eastern Freestate periodical, the Speckled Bean. Because she used a blog post of mine for a fair portion of the article she graciously listed me as a co-writer. I must say I was quite taken aback ... never expected my words to end up in print! Just shows you ... you have to be careful what you write! :)
    Here is the article:

    Carl really wants you to have a ....... !

    Sunday, April 4, 2010

    The Eternal Love to Come

    7:00pm Saturday night and a collection of people have gathered in the light of strategically placed burning torches outside Essensual Art Gallery in Clarens. A erudite gent clears his throat and, first in fluent French and then again in English welcomes us to the opening of Frances Lozear's enigmatically titled exhibition, “l’amour eternal pour venir” (the eternal love to come), and sings her well earned praises, lauding her as one of South Africa's foremost artists. Frances adds her welcome and thanks, and Mercia Deale, gallery owner and host for the evening opens the doors, and with a sweep of her arm welcomes us in.
    We follow Mercia, arm in arm with Frances, into the gallery and the impact is dramatic! The decor and atmosphere is perfect; from the blood red cherry liqueurs at the door; the hauntingly beautiful music spilling out into the night; the floor carpeted with red and black feathers; the pink and white marshmellows kissed with chocolate, the walls scrawled with cryptic messages to us, the audience, and all with the specific intent of setting off the selection of Frances's carefully selected 18 masterpieces.
    Frances Lozear's "Eternal Dream" Oil on canvas, and "When you're too blind to see, listen with your heart" Oil on canvas.
    Frances is an artist is the truest sense. Her work is beautiful, but at the same time challenging to the viewer; not just pretty parlour art which is found in many of the Clarens galleries today. Haunting, tonal, dramatic and heartbreaking the work speaks of Frances's personal story in an intimate way, without giving away too many clues. Those who are looking for a pretty picture to hang on a wall will be disappointed... this is a real meal, not fastfood. Wandering around admiring and enjoying the work I overheard discussion at every point; not just the "ooohs" and "aaaahs" of an admiring viewer, but sensible discussion about what the story behind each of the pieces was. The titles were as interesting as the pieces and gave valuable pointers as to what was involved in each canvas we viewed. The buyers of these pieces, be they South African, or Canadian (Frances's usual market) are going to be ecstatic with any of these lovely (in every sense of the word) works. The evening? In short it was subtly glamorous, it was stimulating, it was interesting and it was deliciously fulfilling.
    In the words of one well known Clarens personality that attended who's name escapes me at the moment (forgive me), "Mercia, you have raised the bar for Clarens with this exhibition".
    Mercia, Frances, congratulations to you both on what was a flawlessly executed exhibition.
    Mercia (left) & Frances (right)

    Random Exhibition Shots: