John Salminen Demo – No Apology for “Wow!”


Salminen crowd 1John Salminen lived up to his world-wide reputation at our October 14 meeting. His goal in the demo was to bridge the gap between abstraction and realism. “Every painting starts out as an abstraction,” Salminen asserted. Salminen Demo 1

Salminen began by creating an abstract white shape. When determining what constitutes a good shape, he relies on the criteria put forth by Edgar Whitney: The shape must be irregular, unpredictable, and oblique. Also, it must exit the page three times, dividing the picture plane. He then surrounded the white area with a light-value wash stating that “In order for luminous whites to glow, they should be surrounded by a light value.”

He then determines whether the dominant colors should be warm or cool. “If warm, throw in a little cool. The painting should be 80 percent dessert and 20 percent broccoli,” Salminen quipped.

He then protected the white areas with masking tape which he prefers over frisket and uses a simple wallpaper cutter to cut tape into small sections preferring “the hardware store to the art supply store when possible.” Salminen Demo 2Next he painted in the darks using a red-green mixture, then changing to a purply grey mix of ultramarine blue and burnt sienna. “It’s important to change the color of the darks to keep it interesting. If the cake is substantial it won’t collapse under the frosting,” Salminen believes. Salminen Demo 9

He then began working on the specific subject of the painting – a boats and harbor scene. The representational subject matter requires line work and calligraphy.

Taking time for questions at this point, while letting his wife blow-dry the work in progress, Salminen answered questions about techniques. “Learn every technique possible and file it away for when you need it, but never let anyone see that you use a particular technique,” he warned. “No technique should elicit a ‘Wow!”

Salminen Demor 4At this point, Salminen placed masking tape around the foreground area, wet the surface, and painted in reflections with straight vertical strokes. Then, with a Hake brush, he took water off and brushed across the area with horizontal strokes. To focus attention on a chosen area, he used a mouth atomizer, blowing across an area with one color, letting it dry, then adding a second color which “will tease the eye to mix them as the impressionists did.”

He added a figure in the focus area, a simple gesture as a center of interest. Finally, he added lines and wires to create movement, using a fine brush for positive strokes and a Mr. Clean Eraser to lift white areas. He finished with a light spray of blue to bring out the focus area. Though opposed to the “Wow factor” in the use of techniques, Salminen elicited a Wow response from the record breaking NorthStar audience in attendance.