Dan Thompson's June 13th Chat Transcript

14 Jun 2007

0706thomchat_463x263Read the transcript from our online chat with artist-instructor Dan Thompson. If you have more thoughts to share, chat with your peers on Artists' Forum, and check back for more online chats with featured artists.

2007-06-13 12:00:02.0
Administrator: You have joined a chat with Dan Thompson, a top artist-instructor who has been highlighted in Workshop magazine. Feel free to ask him some questions and to join in the discussion. Sponsored by the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art.

2007-06-13 11:54:00.0
Pentimento: Does he have one of those "kitchen sink" palettes, with 50 colors?

2007-06-13 12:01:13.0
Dan Thompson: Pentimento, I should use a kitchen-sink palette, but I don't. I use a palette I bought in France, about 25” x 20”, it holds about 25 colors. I have no tints. All those radiant colors I love, but I don't use them because that would add to the complexity of my palette. I only have on my palette what I feel I can't live without. For example, phthalo turquoise. What other colors can make that?

2007-06-13 12:04:30.0
Germaine: Hello, what colors do you have on your palette besides turquoise?

2007-06-13 12:05:30.0
Dan Thompson: Germaine, I can't list all 25 here, but they will be in the transcript tomorrow. Anyone who would like to email me at dan@danthompsonart.com will get a complete materials list.

2007-06-13 12:03:08.0
MSD: do you select the colors in terms of warms and cools?

2007-06-13 12:04:08.0
Dan Thompson: MSD, I sort of do. My palette is laid out like a color wheel. I start with cold violet. Then I go from blues to greens to yellows, and I end up on other side of the palette in warm violet.

2007-06-13 12:03:42.0
Kendra: Hi Dan, I'm so glad to be apart of the discussion. Do you use the white-to-black shading chart as you paint?

2007-06-13 12:06:42.0
Dan Thompson: Kendra, I do not, but I was trained in that method. I have made quite a few white-to-black charts. But I have found some interesting information from the Creative llustration book by Loomis. He describes how such a chart was used by Pyle. Check it out--it's interesting.

2007-06-13 12:05:04.0
MSD: these are built over the "grisaille" of an earth color and white?

2007-06-13 12:07:46.0
Dan Thompson: MSD, yes, I start out with a toned canvas (neutral gray). N6 by Golden Acrylics, to be specific about the gesso. Then the block in is with raw umber and flake white.

2007-06-13 12:05:19.0
wilybrad: Do you have a preferred brand of paint?

2007-06-13 12:08:53.0
Dan Thompson: Wilybrad, I use three or four brands. For cadmiums, Old Holland. Winsor & Newton for a variety of colors. I like Gamblin paints. And I like some of the Graham colors, like their raw sienna. I also occasionally use some Williamsburg paints, like Pompeii red. I think it's a good question because different brands have different colors by the same name. Like Indian yellow by Winsor & Newton has a unique character to it that you don't find in other Indian yellows.

2007-06-13 12:05:41.0
Joan: How do you decide about the background to a portrait?

2007-06-13 12:10:43.0
Dan Thompson: Joan, you mean in terms of color? When the person is in front of me, I arrange what inspires me, what catches my eye, in terms of composition and to help me clarify skin colors.

2007-06-13 12:08:45.0
Pentimento: Was you teacher at your Atelier also a high chroma painter?

2007-06-13 12:11:34.0
Dan Thompson: Pentimento, I studied with quite a few people, some of whom were high chroma, and some of whom were not.

2007-06-13 12:12:15.0
Dan Thompson: There were some great high chroma painters, like Cedric Egeli, Nelson Shanks, Dan Neidhardt, and Stephen Perkins. And Sammy Britt. They were all students of Henry Hensche.

2007-06-13 12:10:49.0
wilybrad: What support do you prefer, board, cotton, linen?

2007-06-13 12:12:49.0
Dan Thompson: wilybrad, linen, always. For color studies you can use anything, tho.

2007-06-13 12:11:32.0
Joan: I mean, in terms of whether to leave it monochromatic, or suggest objects in the background, etc.

2007-06-13 12:13:57.0
Dan Thompson: Joan, when you are painting somebody's portrait and it’s a serious endeavor, everything in the background is important. There is no such thing as 'I didn't think about how I composed it.' You either composed it well, or you composed it poorly.

2007-06-13 12:11:58.0
Administrator: You have joined a chat with Dan Thompson, a top artist-instructor who has been highlighted in Workshop magazine. Feel free to ask him some questions and to join in the discussion. Sponsored by the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art.

2007-06-13 12:12:01.0
Linda Dulaney: Sadie here on Linda's account - which artists do you feel are your greatest influences?

2007-06-13 12:15:32.0
Dan Thompson: Sadie, I can address some artists that are not living that are huge influences: Sorolla, Velazquez, Hensche...Annigoni.

2007-06-13 12:13:24.0
hellfish:  do you use color that may be considered fugitive…or do you tend to stay away from them

2007-06-13 12:14:19.0
Dan Thompson: hellfish, I generally stay away from them.

2007-06-13 12:14:50.0
Alli: Dan, regarding the ties you make between painting and music, what is it exactly that you see as musical in the painting process? Is it in the drawing? Applying the color? The balancing of elements throughout a work?

2007-06-13 12:16:35.0
Dan Thompson: Alli, I think the first and foremost is the balancing of elements throughout the work. We have to find a way to take our own knowledge base and weave it into an effortless practice. There should be something organic about that--that to me is quite musical.

2007-06-13 12:17:04.0
Dan Thompson: When it comes to the color, there has to be a harmony that governs how anything is lit so that the colors all add up to become that light condition. I regard that as musical.

2007-06-13 12:17:18.0
Alli: This is true. Ingres said, “If I could make musicians of you all, you would thereby profit as painters. Everything in nature is harmony; a little too much, or else too little, disturbs the scale and makes a false note. One must teach the point of singing true with the pencil or with brush quite as much as with the voice; rightness of forms is like rightness of sounds.” Sounds like you’re on the same page (or shall I say sheet?)!

2007-06-13 12:18:21.0
Dan Thompson: Alli, that's great. I recommend Charles Woodbury's Painting and the Personal Equation. He has wonderful things to say about this musical analogy.

2007-06-13 12:17:41.0
hellfish: Mr. Thompson, do you listen to music when you paint..if so, what?

2007-06-13 12:19:07.0
Dan Thompson: hellfish, good question. My range goes from classical Persian to heavy metal thrash. (Slayer)

2007-06-13 12:18:51.0
NE: Hi Dan-- I have a question about Grand Central Academy: I hear the academy teaches several different ways to paint, as opposed to ateliers that focus on one method. How exactly does this work and what made you all decide on this method?

2007-06-13 12:21:31.0
Dan Thompson: NE, it's an excellent question. I'm trying to think of a succinct way of saying this. It is about classicism. I believe that the four of us who created Grand Central share a lot in the way that we work. There is something in each of us when we paint that is idealized, which is classical. We haven't really sat down and tried to define this. But i think it makes a better school if people who have the same general ideas get together because the richness of the experiences make for a more comprehensive program. If it were one person's way of teaching it would be one-dimensional.

2007-06-13 12:21:37.0
hellfish: would you say that SLAYER"S Reign in Blood is one of the greatest metal albums of ALL TIME

2007-06-13 12:21:55.0
Dan Thompson: hellfish, no question about it.

2007-06-13 12:21:55.0
Rob: When you begin to paint in color, over your grisaille, do you apply the paint in terms of underlying form, flat shapes, color/temperature of the light? Is it a combination of all those? Which one is most important to you?

2007-06-13 12:24:26.0
Dan Thompson: Rob, form has no bearing in the beginning. Form is not considered. I am trying to forget about, momentarily, what I am seeing and lay down flat colored masses. Hopefully the biggest five or six will assemble themselves in the proper relationship identifying the truth of the light. From there I will start thinking about form.

2007-06-13 12:22:38.0
Pentimento: Dan: In your early training, did you copy Bargue’s plates? Are you a proponent of 19th century teaching methodologies? What have you arrived at in terms of teaching "beliefs"?

2007-06-13 12:26:17.0
Dan Thompson: Pentimento, beliefs are quite varied depending on who you are working with. I think the Bargue plates are a good idea, even tho I didn't copy them. To me it's the closest thing we can get to a videotape of the 19th century classroom. They were encapsulating very big technical exercises into these plates. It's helpful for the "thinking" of the thing, to copy a few and test one’s self. It's not just part of a tradition--there's real validity to it.

2007-06-13 12:23:42.0
Administrator: You have joined a chat with Dan Thompson, a top artist-instructor who has been highlighted in Workshop magazine. Feel free to ask him some questions and to join in the discussion. Sponsored by the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art.

2007-06-13 12:24:24.0
Kendra:  Dan, what name and company creates the yellow you use to capture sunlight? How do you shade/tint it from outdoor to what shines indoors?

2007-06-13 12:27:23.0
Dan Thompson: Kendra, in the way that I studied, we teach sunlight by developing our eyes, so any color on the palette can be used for sunlight.

2007-06-13 12:27:48.0
Kendra: Wow, I never thought of it that way. Smooth.

2007-06-13 12:28:15.0
Dan Thompson: If you were to look at Hensche's chapter on sunlight from The Art of Seeing and Painting, it would clarify this more. But your question about different lights is a really good one. I am always taking my painting into different lights to look at it. My teacher taught me, 'five minutes indoors (with a color study in progress) is worth 20 outdoors.' It's about clarity of vision.

2007-06-13 12:24:44.0
Linda Dulaney: Dan We here at BACAA are so thrilled about you upcoming workshop in the Bay Area. Here we are using very high north light. What light do you normally work with? Thanks, Linda

2007-06-13 12:30:22.0
Dan Thompson: Linda, I have a northwest window in Brooklyn, which can make several light keys. The most interesting for me is in the early morning until about 1 when I get a kind of warm violet. I change my painting for the different light in the afternoon. I work on a different one.

2007-06-13 12:30:50.0
Dan Thompson: I'm excited about the workshop too!

2007-06-13 12:31:21.0
Linda Dulaney: Thank you Dan Really looking forward to it

2007-06-13 12:27:14.0
Pennie: I've been told squint my eyes so that I only see the light and shadows. Do you use this technique?

2007-06-13 12:31:42.0
Dan Thompson: Pennie, I use it in the block-in but not in the color. I think it's helpful in the block-in for the way it simplifies and gives you a clear idea about composition and pattern.

2007-06-13 12:28:14.0
Pentimento: I still can't believe you paint to Slayer...that's crazy:)

2007-06-13 12:31:41.0
hellfish: Mr. Thompson, im currently working on a painting of a squirrel. have you ever painted a squirrel? they are really hard to paint and would love some advice.

2007-06-13 12:32:40.0
Dan Thompson: hellfish, I need more info than that.

2007-06-13 12:33:05.0
hellfish: they are tree-dwelling rodents that have a bushy tail

2007-06-13 12:32:16.0
Pennie: How do you determine the direction of your shadows?

2007-06-13 12:33:05.0
Dan Thompson: Pennie, the light determines it, not me. The only way I can determine them is when I am setting the painting up. Once they are there they become the foundation of the painting.

2007-06-13 12:33:40.0
Pennie: I mean, is there a specific direction you prefer to set your light up at for your shadows?

2007-06-13 12:35:48.0
Dan Thompson: Pennie, the upper right is a great place if you are studying, particularly if you are right handed. It's a good point because one should learn these ideas in the best situation possible.

2007-06-13 12:33:21.0
Linda Dulaney: Dan Does the terminator determine the direction of the light.

2007-06-13 12:34:13.0
Dan Thompson: Linda, the light and the terminator are bounded together. I think of the terminator as the key indicator of the light, but not in terms of the direction of the light. The terminator is really a contour line in addition to giving the direction of the light. It's always on the form, we just lose that sense and we need that part of the equation to finish the painting.

2007-06-13 12:33:59.0
Tenacious B: In your demo on the American Artist website, what do you mean by “Plenty of room is left around the color masses to account for the necessary revision of colors“?

2007-06-13 12:37:40.0
Dan Thompson: Tenacious, good question. There's a tendency that I observe in teaching color with the figure--people want to paint all the way out to the edges of the form with the original color mass. This makes the color mass more permanent. It's akin to pressing down really hard in the first strokes of a block-in. Leaving room around the color notes leaves you free to revise them.

2007-06-13 12:35:53.0
Kendra: Dan and Linda, what are you referring to as the "terminator" in determining light direction?

2007-06-13 12:36:14.0
Dan Thompson: hellfish, check the store called Evolution in Soho, Spring Street. You may find a stuffed squirrel there!

2007-06-13 12:36:47.0
Linda Dulaney: Dan so does the teminator set the direction if the graduation of value. Thanks, Linda

2007-06-13 12:40:58.0
Dan Thompson: linda, no, I would guess the terminator has more to do with the intensity of the light, the degree to which the form changes from darkest to lightest. I think Linda's question is one we should have while painting the final phase of the ptg. She's essentially asking, what is more valid, the form or the light on it. You are not copying what you see, you are challenging what you see by evaluating it by two different trains of thought if you are considering it both ways.

2007-06-13 12:37:47.0
Pentimento: Dan: Do you paint outdoors, plein air? Do you use a pochade box?

2007-06-13 12:42:00.0
Dan Thompson: Pentimento, I don't use a pochade box. I use an old Ancobilt easel. I also use a Stanright aluminum easel. But maybe I'm just cheap and I should buy a pochade box. But I do paint outdoors.

2007-06-13 12:42:37.0
Pentimento: I'm a cheap person too...I could never buy one of those pochade boxes. The nice ones are like $500

2007-06-13 12:37:59.0
hellfish: im sorry, i dont know what a terminator is though

2007-06-13 12:38:42.0
Dan Thompson: hellfish, you are not a real Slayer fan if you say that.

2007-06-13 12:37:48.0
Linda Dulaney: Terminator is the core shadow.

2007-06-13 12:38:00.0
Gilbert: In plein air painting, color is difficult to see. When I bring the paintings under artificial light, they look bleached out. Any ideas on how to prevent this?

2007-06-13 12:42:58.0
Dan Thompson: gilbert, I would challenge yourself to paint scenes that push the colors to their extremes. Paint sunsets. Paint brighter objects outdoors. At the Hensche school, they painted colored blocks.

2007-06-13 12:43:58.0
Dan Thompson: In my evening class in NYC, I have a light that I acquired from a theater, a Broadway lighting co, and we are ptg the figure under colored gels. When we are painting under a crimson gel, you cannot just reach for the Venetian red. It is not going to do the job. In certain situations these tube colors are really not that chromatic. We've been starting with very strong gels and we have been alternating the crimson gel with the blue gel. We are using palette knives, not brushes, btw. Gradually, we put more subtle gels on the lights, until we are just ptg with regular light. We realized in doing that that there's no such thing as a neutral light.

2007-06-13 12:40:10.0
wilybrad: Okay, back to portraits. Do you have favorite colors for skintones? I realize that will vary.

2007-06-13 12:46:12.0
Dan Thompson: wilybrad, my favorite color for skin tones is flake white, because of the texture it can bring. Any color on the palette can be used on the skin--i let the light determine it. that was my point.

2007-06-13 12:40:10.0
Kendra: It is so fun to be surrounded by others equally passionate about art/painting/color/lighting!

2007-06-13 12:40:51.0
Colleen Johns: Dan, what would you recommend for the most fundamental painting book

2007-06-13 12:41:35.0
Kendra: Dan, referring to your 'tendency that you observe in teaching color w/figure--people want to paint all the way out to the edges' Does that imply that you apply the paint and then use another, smaller (cattung) brush to fan the paint out? Or, do you wipe some of your prior paints off?

2007-06-13 12:42:51.0
Administrator: You have joined a chat with Dan Thompson, a top artist-instructor who has been highlighted in Workshop magazine. Feel free to ask him some questions and to join in the discussion. Sponsored by the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art.

2007-06-13 12:43:11.0
hellfish: Mr. Thompson, do you paint from photographs?

2007-06-13 12:50:08.0
Dan Thompson: hellfish, no I do not.

2007-06-13 12:44:39.0
Kendra: Dan, referring to your 'tendency that you observe in teaching color w/figure--people want to paint all the way out to the edges' Does that imply that you apply the paint and then use another, smaller (cattung) brush to fan the paint out? Or, do you wipe some of your prior paints off?

2007-06-13 12:49:29.0
Dan Thompson: kendra, no, I am conscious of the surface but I don't take the initial color note and make it the final color note. I have to go through a period of awkwardness before a period of revelation, where I find a finer way of seeing, a finer color. At that time, I am also usually dealing with the form changes.

2007-06-13 12:47:12.0
Dan Thompson: colleen, I've always liked the Harold Speed book. For drawing, I like the Vanderpool book. Try to find an old copy--they have better quality reproductions, and more of them.

2007-06-13 12:48:34.0
Pentimento: You mean the Practice and Science of Drawing and Vanderpool's anatomy book?

2007-06-13 12:51:13.0
Dan Thompson: Pentimento, no, it is called Oil Painting. Vanderpool is a drawing book by John H. Vanderpool. Drawing prof at Chicago Art Institute 1880-1911. I also recommend Art and Nature Appreciation by George H. Opdyke. Also, John F. Carlson's Landscape Painting

2007-06-13 12:48:50.0
Gilbert: Have you ever copied other artist's work for learning purposes?

2007-06-13 12:51:59.0
Dan Thompson: gilbert, yes, Ingres, Sorolla, and Velazquez. Also Sargent and George deForest Brush.

2007-06-13 12:48:55.0
hellfish: Mr. Thompson, what kind of brushes are the best

2007-06-13 12:52:20.0
Dan Thompson: hellfish, I like Silver Brush a lot, and Robert Simmons.

2007-06-13 12:49:13.0
Administrator: You have joined a chat with Dan Thompson, a top artist-instructor who has been highlighted in Workshop magazine. Feel free to ask him some questions and to join in the discussion. Sponsored by the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art.

2007-06-13 12:50:51.0
realistpainter: how do you handle varnish? and how do you get a consistent varnish and avoid sinking?

2007-06-13 12:52:55.0
Dan Thompson: realist, I mostly use retouch varnish or I oil out. I haven't been doing lots of varnishing lately.

2007-06-13 12:50:59.0
Pentimento: Dan: Are you a "full time" artist? If so, how did you support yourself in New York (of all expensive places) while you were developing?

2007-06-13 12:53:58.0
Dan Thompson: Pentimento, it's a real challenge. I'm a full-time artist and teacher. Teaching helps pay the bills and allows me the freedom to paint what I want to paint.

2007-06-13 12:55:12.0
Gilbert: Thanks for your help! I really appreciate hearing true stuff from a successful artist! It's such a struggle, this art thing, and such a thrill when things work out, it's great to listen to a "master!"

2007-06-13 12:55:39.0
Pentimento: Dan: Are there any contemporary artists right now that you admire or that catch your eye?

2007-06-13 12:57:54.0
Dan Thompson: Pentimento, I'm much more interested in deceased artists because a lot of things in the past catch my eye. In the year 2000, there was a show at the Guggenheim called “1900, Art in the Crossroads.” I am interested in the richness of information that was flying all over the world in that show. Malevich, Sorolla, Picasso, American Impressionists, Sargent, Thayer, great sculptors...

2007-06-13 12:59:25.0
Dan Thompson: it was helpful for me to go back and look at my teacher's father's work at the Corcoran, and I had no idea how potent that place had been in the 1920s until I went back and looked at it. It was much like the structure of many schools of that area--but in those days, they were run by artists. In Corcoran, it was Meryman.

2007-06-13 12:59:37.0
Dan Thompson: The academies today are often not run by artists. Why is it OK that 1% of the graduates of art schools become artists? If that were true with medical school, we would have a doctors crisis on our hands.

2007-06-13 13:00:05.0
Dan Thompson: We're not out to satisfy a board of regents. We are out to help create artists.

2007-06-13 13:00:23.0
Administrator: Just so you all know, you can always share tips on our message board, Artists' Forum.

2007-06-13 13:01:06.0
Administrator: Ok, everyone that's all for now

2007-06-13 13:01:19.0
Administrator: Be sure to check our website in the coming weeks for a video of demonstration by Dan.

2007-06-13 13:01:36.0
hellfish: mr thompson, how much can you bench?

2007-06-13 13:02:10.0
NE: hellfish, i get the impression that you are challenging this award-winning artist to some sort of match. i don't think that's appropriate

2007-06-13 13:04:25.0
Dan Thompson: hellfish, I take it back about you not being a real Slayer fan. ‘How much I can bench?’ You're the real deal!

2007-06-13 13:01:48.0
Administrator: And here is a list of his workshops, which is also posted on our website.

2007-06-13 13:02:01.0

THIS WEEKEND: oil painting demonstration for the Academy of Realist Art, Toronto, Canada
Friday, June 15, 6-9 pm
contact: info@AcademyofRealistArt.com

The Arts and Letters Club of Toronto, Toronto, Canada, June 18-19
contact Veronica at info@portraitsocietyofcanada.com

The Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art, Los Angeles, CA, July 19-23

Bay Area Classical Artist Atelier, San Francisco, CA, July 30-August 10

The Art League School, Alexandria, VA, September 12-16

Please contact the above institutions to register, or Dan Thompson for a materials list at:

2007-06-13 13:03:43.0
Administrator: We are done for today, but you can email Dan at dan@danthompsonart.com

2007-06-13 13:04:29.0
Dan Thompson: thanks everyone.

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