Greg Carmell: 5 Golden Rules Of Painting - OutdoorPainter (2024)

Outdoor painter Greg Cartmell tells us about his first influences, including their memorable words of advice for painting.

By Greg Cartmell

I was thinking back 45 to 50 years ago when we only referred to ourselves as “Outdoors Painters.” You know, the period way back in the day before anyone was using the phrase “en plein air.” Those days are long gone, yet they seem like just yesterday. I have been painting for more than six decades and I remember being mentored by my dad, Robert Cartmell, who introduced me to Norman Rockwell for occasional Saturday morning critiques. I also distinctly remember going out on location painting with Emile Gruppe, who was perhaps one of my biggest influences when it comes to painting and creating artwork.

Advice for Painting and Painters

It was Gruppe who introduced me to a broken color, by a simple demonstration of painting an orange in his studio. I remember him loading up a brush with yellow and red paint, and creating the orange with the strains of each color going through it. I remember him adding a little ultramarine blue for the shadow side.

There was something he said that really stuck with me. He stated, “Let your eye mix the color on the canvas; don’t tell the whole story just give a hint.” Perhaps this was the most visually exciting demonstration I had ever seen, and I never quite got over it. I have been using broken color ever since.

I continued to learn things from different teachers as years passed. Marshall Joyce taught me the value of editing and simplification, and how when on location to build the painting and not be a slave to the reality of the composition and color and what was before me. Emile Gruppe taught me about the richness of impasto paint and color. I remember him saying more color more color, and you paint with paint not a brush!

It was Robert Douglas Hunter that taught me how to paint sight size, which came in helpful when painting hundreds of still lifes in the studio on days that were too miserable to go out on location.

I have never hesitated to edit the scene while on location, and push or pull the colors nature presents. Hence the difference between art and craft. The craft is the mechanics of learning how to paint, and the art is what the artist brings to the table to make a personal statement. Which reminds me of one day when I told Emile Gruppe how confused I was getting reading all these different rules about painting, and I’ll never forget his answer. He said, “Forget everything you know; trust your eyes and paint what you feel.” I remember it feeling like getting a license for the first time!

Greg Carmell: 5 Golden Rules Of Painting - OutdoorPainter (2)

Success or Failure

I believe the success or the failure of the painting usually happens in the first 10 to 15 minutes. I try to attack everything I paint with as much energy as I can. This sets the pace for the whole painting, and hopefully adds to the feeling of the finished piece. I have always believed that going out on location is a great start, and I have never hesitated to use the results as a study for a larger painting done in the studio.

A Few Words About Composition . . .

We all start out learning about the golden mean, and the composition of the old masters. However, I feel these rules are only suggestions and one may push composition as far as they would like. There is an innate feeling we all have that tells us whether something works or does not work on the canvas; trust your eyes.

Today’s cinematographers push the envelope and you can see some of the most exciting composition in films that are being directed today.

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My Five Favorite Rules (Or Suggestions, If You Must)

I’d like to leave you with what I would consider my five favorite rules or suggestions when it comes to painting.

Rule #1 – Paint what you love.

Rule #2 – Paint not only what you know but what you feel. Give yourself permission to paint it your way.

Rule #3 – When painting outdoors do not rush into it. Give yourself time to compose and collect your thoughts before you lift a brush.

Rule #4 – Use the very best materials you can afford, nothing is more expensive than bad materials and cheap paint.

Rule #5 – Do not let competitions rob you of the joy painting has to offer.

Today I spend my time running my art gallery based out of Mississippi, creating new artwork, managing my online gallery at and traveling to Miami, New Orleans, and New England to mingle with collectors, meet with galleries owners and live life the only way I know how, one brush stroke at a time.

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Greg Carmell: 5 Golden Rules Of Painting - OutdoorPainter (2024)


Greg Carmell: 5 Golden Rules Of Painting - OutdoorPainter? ›

My Five Favorite Rules (Or Suggestions, If You Must)

What are the golden rules of painting? ›

Paint from Dark to Light

Any addition of white to this will sully your darks, making them look cloudy or chalky. The longer you can keep out the white, the fresher the painting will look. It's also easier to lighten a colour than to darken a colour. That rule alone should tell you to paint from dark to light.

What is it called when an artist paints outside? ›

En plein air is a French expression meaning “in the open air”, and refers to the act of painting outdoors with the artist's subject in full view. Plein air artists capture the spirit and essence of a landscape or subject by incorporating natural light, color and movement into their works.

What is the golden rule of watercolor? ›

There are two fundamental techniques in watercolor painting. You can't escape them… they are: Wet-on-wet and wet-on-dry. Together, these techniques form a golden rule that is unique to watercolors, and highlights the broad range of possibilities in watercolor painting.

What are the basic rules of painting? ›

1. The four stages of painting are placement, background, shadow and light. 2. To paint something convincingly, you have to determine local color, shadow color, turning color and highlight color.

What is the golden triangle in painting? ›

The Golden Triangle is a composition standard that divides a composition into four right triangles. These triangles are created by first dividing the rectangle with a main line connecting opposing corners. Extending at right angles from the main line, two additional lines run through the remaining two corners.

What is the 1 3 rule in painting? ›

It says that if you divide your composition into thirds, either vertically or horizontally, and then place focal areas of your scene at the meeting points of them, you will get a more pleasing arrangement and layout for your compositions.

What is this outdoor painting practice called? ›

Outdoor painting often referred to as En Plein Air is a French expression for “in the open air”. En Plein Air or Plein Air painting (better known as Outdoor Painting) is a popular Art practice since 19th century.

What is outside paint called? ›

Types of paint include: Water-based exterior paint: Water-based exterior paint is also called latex paint or acrylic paint. Naturally breathable and expands and contracts with house siding, making it very durable.

What are 3 common mistakes that people make when using watercolor? ›

5 Common Watercolour Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
  • Using too much water. One of the most common mistakes that beginner watercolour artists make is using too much water. ...
  • Not using the right paper. ...
  • Overworking the paint. ...
  • Using too many colors. ...
  • Not using enough contrast.
Apr 17, 2023

What are the four pillars of watercolor? ›

I ordered Alvaro's new book "Watercolor Masterclass" in February, and have been reading and re-reading it since then. The broad idea for the book is a conceptual framework that Alvaro talks about in his workshops- namely, the Four Pillars. Color, Shape, Value, and Edges.

What is the golden rule in art? ›

The golden ratio is found when a line is divided into two parts such that the whole length of the line divided by the long part of the line is also equal to the long part of the line divided by the short part of the line.

What are the five procedures for painting? ›

5 Steps To A Successful Painting
  • Paint the blank canvas in a base colour (this is called a ground)
  • Paint in the lines of the rule of thirds to help your composition.
  • Draw in roughly (with paint) your subject.
  • Block in colours with a large brush/knife.
  • Build up detail with a smaller brush/knife.
Sep 3, 2020

What do you paint first in a painting? ›

This is one of many reasons I recommend that you paint in some background color first around whichever object you are painting. That way if your paint does dry on canvas, you can very easily blend into the dry background colors to re-wet those areas and continue with your still life.

What is golden point in painting? ›

Details: The Golden Ratio In Art

As an easier rule of thumb for your art, you can use a ratio of 3 to 5. Although not the exact 0.62 golden ratio, this is close enough for artists. This golden ratio has been used throughout history by artists to place points and lines of interest in their work.

What are the principles of painting? ›

The principles of art and design are balance, contrast, emphasis, movement, pattern, rhythm, and unity/variety. The use of these principles can help determine whether a painting is successful, and whether or not the painting is finished. The artist decides what principles of art he or she wants to use in a painting.

What are the 3 elements of painting? ›

A painting is likely to use space, color, and line, but may be less concerned with form and texture. A sculpture uses form, space, and texture, and sometimes other elements as well. A pencil drawing uses line, value, and shape, but probably does not use color or form.

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