I’ve been renting videos from SmartFlix.com on oil painting landscapes, portraits, and plein air painting and have enjoyed watching most of them, and so has Fiona, pictured above. SmartFlix.com is a website where you can rent videos on any kind of artistic endeavor or just about any other “how-to” — from welding to piloting a helicopter.
The service works well. They charge $10 for each video (theoretically for a week but I’ve kept some two weeks with no problem) They mail them to you with return packaging and postage included. My only complaint is that occasionally, after ordering a video, I find that there will be a wait for it while it comes back from the last member. Usually they’re shipped within a few days. There are no membership or monthly fees. You pay only when you rent a video. Like Amazon, there are user reviews which I found very helpful in making my selections.
Here are the videos I’ve watched so far, with my comments about them. (Please click “Continue Reading” below.)
Landscape and Plein Air Painting Videos
Richard Schmid Painting the Landscape
I was delighted with the opportunity to watch the author of “Alla Prima” paint a landscape outdoors. Although I’m not crazy about his painting style, Richard Schmid is considered by many to be a modern master and he definitely knows what he’s doing. He is a charming, warm, generous teacher who shares some really interesting information. I loved seeing his color charts and how he uses them.
Painting On Location…The Sonoran Desert with Matt Smith
I enjoyed this video particularly for the demonstration of how Matt Smith selects his subject and composition, and the things he does to make the composition better, including moving trees (well in this case, cacti) before he ever starts painting. There was a lot of good information about the challenges of plein air painting. Good painting, good teaching, good production values.
Painting A Landscape From A Small Study with Kevin Macpherson
Kevin Macpherson Paints A Landscape
I enjoyed both of these videos and I like Kevin Macpherson a lot. He’s funny and down to earth and a guy who really loves to paint plein air. He uses a very limited palette and paintings with tremendous depth, full of air and light with beautiful rich color, mixed from only red, yellow, blue and black. It’s pretty amazing. My only complaint is that these videos are studio demos painted using small plein air paintings as the image source. I would have liked to see him capture the great outdoors. He provides lots of really helpful information and instruction. He really nails value and color temperature — pretty amazing to watch, after reading his books.
Mystery Falls With Albert Handell
Albert Handell‘s work has a wonderful abstract quality to it — different from many of these other videos. This demonstration of painting a rocky waterfall deep in the woods is wonderful. He struck me as a sort of gentle giant — he looks like he could be an old logger from the backwoods, but his painting is starts with joyful abandon and then becomes very sensitive and calligraphic. Close up it is a beautiful abstract and at a distance it’s a beautiful scene. I found this video to be very inspiring and intriguing.
Quick Studies in Oil Painting with Craig Nelson (2 DVD set)
Craig Nelson wrote the book, “60 Minutes to Better Painting” which emphasizes that if you paint more–many short studies of 60 minutes or so–your skills will improve–and I think he’s right. In his video he demonstrates two paintings, a landscape and a portrait and they’re fun to watch and learn from. I really enjoyed this series, the first I rented from SmartFlix. Craig Nelson provides an interesting and lively commentary as he paints. I was engaged and interested from beginning to end of both DVDs. They’re edited enough that it doesn’t laboriously record every single repetitive brush stroke but you still feel like you’re not missing a thing.
Portrait and Figurative Painting Videos
Famous Painter Films: Oil Portrait: Erin by Daniel Greene
I LOVE Daniel Greene, especially his subway paintings. He is a wonderfully humble, master realist and this video was thrilling to watch as he paints a portrait from a model. I wish there were more Daniel Greene painting videos. The only thing that bugged me was the way he says “palette” (he pronounces it with the emphasis on the “ette” which is probably correct, but still….
Painting the Facial Features with John Howard Sanden
It was fun seeing John Sanden‘s amazing portrait studio and watching this expert portrait painter do a close up of the facial features of his model. His explanations of the contours and planes and structure of the face and how they’re painted was great. He makes it look really easy (which it is most definitely not!). Very helpful and informative video.
In the Studio with Scott Burdick- Peru
This was a great 4-DVD series of painting an impressionist portrait of a Peruvian indian girl from his photos. I really liked Scott Burdick, a gentle, earnest, down-to-earth guy, who does a wonderful job explaining what he’s thinking and doing as he works. He talks about his teacher and mentor and passes down what he learned from him. He shares his own insecure moments and mistakes, which was reassuring. When he first started painting I didn’t think I’d like the video. He paints pretty thickly and to me it looked like he started with a big gloppy muddy oval and then almost sculpted (using darker paint) the face out of it, but it was an illusion. He really is a master of color and value and brushstroke technique. He explains an order for creating a painting that deals with the most important steps first that I found really valuable. This is a 4-DVD set that is filmed nearly (or completely real time, so that he does the whole painting on camera, all the while offering really great information and inspiration.
Painting A Head – My Approach: Everett Raymond Kinstler
Here’s what I said in my review on the website: “Sheesh! What a lot of hot air. This guy goes on and on and on, mostly reminiscing about past and famous artists he’s known and occasionally he brilliantly puts a little paint on the canvas. I could have skipped this one.”
In the Studio with Morgan Weistling
I have mixed feelings about this series of 4 DVDs. It was painted over a period of six days with Morgan Wesistling providing a continuous commentary about his drawing and painting process. The videos total nearly 8 hours. Sometimes it literally felt like watching paint dry as he applies paint in tiny dabs that he restates and corrects and redabs. But he’s brilliant at mixing color and getting just the right value and relative color temperature, and his “side trips” where he takes a break from painting and gives a lecture on an aspect of drawing, value, or painting are really good. I think what bothered me the most was that he didn’t seem to get much joy from his painting and the final “gallery painting,” while beautifully painted seemed very commercial and lifeless. I did learn from the video but towards the end started fast-forwarding through the repetitive boring parts.
Painting A Portrait With Dan Gerhartz
I enjoyed this demonstration of painting from the model and the Dan Gerhartz’s “think-aloud” comments as he made choices of colors, evaluated and corrected his work, and explained his steps along the way.