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At some point, every artist desires to create their own look. This is natural creative growth and progresses the arts. We start as students but over time we become ready for more. You're not alone. The question is- how do you do it?

A Note from David
I have been thinking and thinking about the "Art of Seeing." For months I have been pulling together references: portraits, landscapes, florals, wildlife paintings, and more. I have watched so many of you grow, and I want to push you toward new things. I want to help you learn to "See." 

Thumb S202 intro 350Click Here for an
Introduction to the Art of Seeing

 What do I mean by "See?"
Many years ago, my wife, Martha, bought me a fantastic book about seeing through Rembrandt's eyes. Studying the Master's drawings helped me understand how he developed compositional planes that underlay his incredible paintings. I was instantly inspired to apply the principles to my own work. These lines and design theories apply to all genres because they describe edges and light- elements that are vital to the artist.
Below are a few of the concepts I will present in this new online class. We explore a variety of artistic concepts to help you develop your individual style. It takes time to learn to see new things and break habits. That is why this is an open class that will never end. It is part of our life long artistic journey. We hope you will join us- there is so much to show... and paint!

 Study the Master Artists

In true master paintings, the overall effect hides the techniques used. Uncovering the methods and learning to see those techniques, increases our understanding and appreciation of the arts. To establish your style, clearly identify the important elements and interpret the techniques in your own way.

Thumb elk 750Carl Rungius Stampede (1892)
Last summer, I went to the National Museum of Wildlife Art to see the works of Carl Rungius up close. Here is his sketch compared to the final painting. Notice how the adjustments he made to the original design idea. Understanding why he made those changes is key to the Art of Seeing. His use of calligraphy, tone, and structure are crucial to the story. Rungius had a vast knowledge of atmospheric depth and detail. Rungius stated that an artist must go outside and paint each week, or else the paintings will become too warm. You need to see the "silvery colors" of nature. 


Thumb moose 2 500Carl Rungius (1925)

One of our goals is to see the planes of light through a line sketch. Sketching is a powerful tool for planning a painting. Many masters create preliminary drawings with short lines rather than soft shading. Small lines depict the planes and edges of tonal changes. Every angle change in a line equals a plane change on the object. Every plane change equals a change of color tone. Setting the planes of light clearly in a sketch helps you plan your brush marks. 

Look closely at the vertical tree in front of the moose. There are small, thin lines across the plane of the tree which suggest the roundness of the trunk. In contrast, the main design lines indicate the vertical power of the tree. These lines determine how you are going to paint that tree. Most of the brush calligraphy can be established with vertical lines. Then use a few crossing marks to show the roundness of the tree. 

Student Question:
A change in a line's slope indicates that it is not flat, and there will be a tone change in the color. Is it OK to draw with curves?
Is it an optical illusion that the curves seem to be used?

Great question! Stroke work, like Rosemaling, and many decorative styles use curved lines. However, when I want a realistic effect, I don't use curved lines because light does not curve. Light moves in straight lines. When we want to capture accurate light movement, we do not curve the brush.

With alla prima techniques, we create small strikes of color rather than long strokes. To paint a tree, the artist marks across the tree to show roundness and uses longer marks to create the vertical of the tree. Most of the curved lines you see are an optical illusion. They are small lines put together. 

Observe Nature

Every morning I study light while walking along the prairie. The early morning light is the best for watching temperatures and shadows. I take lots of photos to help me see the colors in the landscape, and I marvel at the amazing winter skies. I often stop on the walk and just look thinking, "how can I capture that with my brush?" Look at the variety of colors in the sky- it is not just blue. See the warm and cool tones of the prairie grass? This study is not just for landscapes. The visual information, the quality of light, dramatically affects all my paintings. I so enjoy this early morning study time! 

Thumb sidney 500Cheyenne County, Nebraska Thumb rocks 350Bright Warm Morning
Cloudy Grey Morning

Light is key to an exciting painting. Sometimes it is easier to study light movement on a round subject, such as a rock, and then apply it to a floral composition. Notice the difference between the light warm colors and the cooler shadow side of the rock. Do you see the color differences between the first rock and second rock? They are only about 8 feet from each other. Here is my morning rock on a cloudy morning compared to a bright warm morning at the same time of day.  On a clear day, the front rock is almost violet in the left side form shadows. The soft diffused colors of a grey day show what clouds can do to light.

83923509 3868609719823654 2161502988189827072 oSunrise in Sidney, Nebraska 84179910 3868609823156977 8779873593610731520 oSunrise in Sidney, Nebraska

Student Question:
Is light warm and dark cool? That's the way it is in my mind. Am I right on this? I've been confused about this issue lately because I've read several articles where the artists say that light is cool and dark is warm. Please help me out with this. 

Light can be either warm or cool. The temperature of light is a spectrum that we measure in degrees Kelvin. This numerical reference helps us explain light and its effects. You can buy many kinds of light bulbs with different temperatures to control the feeling of a room. The light bulbs in my studio are around 3500 K so that I can clearly see warm/cool colors and related tones. Morning light is very warm, and as the sun rises higher in the sky, the light changes depending on the atmosphere. In our paintings, we control the light temperature to create a mood and tell a story. 

LED Kelvin Color Temperature Landing Page 09
There are so many elements to understand when creating your own work. Students in the rose classes always hear me say, "Set a Queen. She controls how you paint the other roses. The Queen rules the composition." No one has ever asked me: "What is the King?" Light!


sidney 450 2Morning Light in Nebraska sidney 450 2Morning Light in Nebraska

These photos were taken 10 minutes apart. See the vast difference in the warm/cool tones? Notice the change of the blue in the sky. Colors change, temperatures change, shadows change. Everything we paint depends on the light. Throughout this new class, one of the main goals is understanding the path of light in landscapes, still lifes, florals, and portraits. Light controls the colors, contrast, and mood of your composition. As artists, we must respect the light and use it effectively in our work. It is King!


Join the Conversation


Thumb mortl 900  
Thumb mortl 350Frans Mortelmans Pink Roses in a Vase (1865-1936) Thumb mortl 450


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Balthasar van der Ast Flowers in a Vase with Shells and Insects WGA1042Balthasar van der Ast
Flowers in a Vase with Shells

Advance Your Technique


Learn painting techniques that will build your confidence and strengthen your brush

Broken Color
Working Edges
Controlling the Light
Establishing Harmony

Half Tone Control
Simplifying Shapes
Core Contrast
Contour Strokes 

Movement Strokes
Contrast/Softening Strokes
Visual Texture

Learn to Design

 In 2007, David documented 20+ years worth of design lectures in the video series The Art of Design. This 9 part, 18-hour video series covers a range of topics such as: historical periods, formal vs informal compositions, accent areas, weight & balance, as well as designing for furniture surfaces. Features a printable pdf of design elements.

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   Included with Class Registration
Download Your Copy of this Foundation Series
A $200 Value

After painting in the family business for 18 years, David set out to discover his inner artist and create his own style. His extensive training in brush control had transformed into habits, and he searched for a new way to create. After years of studying genres, masters and their techniques, and most importantly, how to break painting habits, David noticed consistent visual elements in beautiful works of art. He found that artists expressed these elements in varying degrees, and this was the foundation of personal style. It can be learned, and habits can be broken. Learning to see and understand the visual psychology of art is the key. What are you really seeing?

For the past few years, David has been encouraging his painting friends to advance their skills. Find their styles and establish artistic looks. Now, he is ready to present these lessons to his online students. It will be challenging-these exercises are designed to make you think through the painting of an idea. But with each challenge comes new confidence in your abilities and confidence is crucial to developing a style. Come join our journey!


Subscription Plans

S202 The Art of Seeing

The Art of Seeing

> 100 Hours of Video Lessons

> Printable Reference Photos & Patterns

Duration: Lifetime
Price: $399.95

Need a Payment Plan? We got you covered!

Subscription Plans

The Art of Seeing 4 Part Payment Plan

Enrollment in this plan authorizes 4 charges to your account of $99.99
Total Class Price is $399.95
One charge occurs each month and is based on your signup date.
Need to use a coupon? Email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to schedule a customized plan

> 100 Hours of Video Lessons

> Printable Reference Photos & Patterns

Trial duration: Lifetime
Trial price: $99.95
Duration: Lifetime
Price: $99.95


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