Monday, August 25, 2008

Sleeping Cast

This is a recent painting using a cast that I've painted several times. I wouldn't actually call it "Sleeping Cast". I think of it as a still life so the title will probably be "Cast with Pillow and Sheets". I'd rather let the viewer decide what the cast is doing.

The cast is a copy of the "Dying Gaul". Theres something about this image that has made me want to paint it more than once. It depicts an enemy of the ancient Greeks and Romans and even though the face is somewhat idealized the moustache keeps it from being overly so.

When I first made the drawing I had planned to put it on an 18"x24" canvas but I grew impatient to work on it and since I had a 16"x20" primed and ready I decided to see how it would look on the smaller canvas. I liked it better cropped because it seemed less like an intimate portrait of someone actually sleeping and more like a still life. This painting marks a turning point in my recent work because I decided to slow things down a bit and push harder to get things right. Normally my procedure is to draw directly on the canvas with charcoal and then make a thinly colored underpainting (ebauche). Instead I made a drawing on paper, transferred it and then did a wipe out using thinned down burnt umber, pulling out the lights with a rag. After this was dry I mixed my colors and proceeded to use a window shade technicque painting with small brushstrokes using the "tiling" method mentioned in "Classical Painting Atelier". After the first pass was dry I proceeded to paint everything all over again, glazing and scumbling as I went, which gave the painting a much richer look than some of my previous paintings which were more alla prima(one pass).

Originally I had intended to have the head partly wrapped in a sheet but then I saw my daughters coat in the closet and I knew I had to paint the fur collar next to the plaster surface. I was a little hesitant thinking maybe the idea was too silly. If the title was going to be "Sleeping Cast" than yeah, the idea would be silly but as a still life with no intended subject other than light on forms, it's just another object.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Life Drawing

Last night I went to a life drawing session after half a day of heavy yard work and then a couple of hours in the studio. I was debating whether to go or not but I hadn't made the last couple of sessions so I toughed it out and went. It's three hours on one pose so it's a pretty good chance to practice some of the fundamentals like the block- in, shadow shapes etc;
It's a great bunch of people that I draw with there and you can't beat the price, ten dollars. Theres plenty of room, usually theres only half a dozen artists. The only problem is with the lighting. The room is covered with flourescent bulbs and spotlights because it functions as a gallery space as well. Usually one weak spotlight is placed on the model which adds to the problem rather than helping. The overall effect is of washed out values and shadows filled with halftones. Noone seems to mind because they're into working in a linear fashion and using modeling as more of a textural idea rather than revealing form. I finally got them to try turning off the flourescent lights and letting the ceiling spots shine on the model. Everyone complained they coudn't see their drawing so I set the spotlamp behind them, shining it towards the back wall. What a difference. I don't think people realize how important a single light source is to figure drawing. Even if you're not doing much shading it still helps to get the proportions and gesture right. Without shadow shapes it's too easy to get caught up in what it is you're drawing rather than what it looks like. ex; this is a head so I guess it goes here and looks like this rather than this is a light plane bisected by a dark triangular plane. There was a marked improvement in everyones drawings, including my own. But I guess they just didn't see it because last night they were back to using the same old washed out light. Sigh!
I decided to try out some of the things that I had learned in the Jon DeMartin workshop, so I drew using nitrate vine charcoal on toned paper. I began with an envelope because the model took a compressed pose, kind of hugging his knees. Then I looked for and drew the inner gestural curve. Things seemed to be going as planned so i switched over to charcoal pencil. Bad idea! Like a greased pig the drawing got away from me. Most likely because I started to detail the face rather than developing the overall block-in from larger to smaller shapes. I think i was in a rush to draw the portrait because I recognized the model. I've seen him painted and drawn by quite a few artists and I guess I wanted to compare myself. See all of the crap that can enter into your head when poor lighting doesn't allow you to concentrate on the abstract nature of what you're drawing. Oh well, I'll get him next time.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008



This is not my first blog post (I've been posting on my website for over a year now) but it is my first posting on this forum. I am a high school art teacher and a professional artist. I love teaching and it does give me enough time to paint every day and all day on the weekends. I mainly focus on still life paintings but i also do quite a few landscapes and interiors and the occasional portrait.

The summer is usually the time when I can get a leg up on my work and this summer I've been pushing ahead on a few different areas. Usually I paint my setups using a spotlight but I recently started experimenting with daylight. I've found it to be quite a challenge. The forms turn slower and more subtly. The shadows tend to melt into each other and theres more "paysage" in general. The warm and cool color relationships are different as well. Anyways, this is an example of one of my recent daylight paintings "Soup Tureen and Onions" 16"x20". I have it setup right next to a window with a white window shade drawn down. It does diffuse the light somewhat but it keeps it constant, allowing me to paint longer than if the shade was up. With this painting I used a burnt umber wipeout and then began to paint "window shade" style painting each object to completion.(well sort of, I went back and repainted each area several times to get the effect of daylight rolling across the forms.)
Another area that I've been concentrating on is my drawing. Usually I draw directly on the canvas with charcoal, but lately I've been making pencil drawings on paper and then transferring them to the canvas. I don't know if it makes a noticable difference but it does give you a last minute reprieve because you can shift the composition slightly when making the transfer.
Usually, I take a workshop over the summer because the classes that I'm taking at the Grand Central Academy of Art go on a summer break and it gives me a chance to try something new. I recently completed a week long drawing class with Jon DeMartin called "short and long pose figure drawing". I highly reccommend it. Having been trained in the straight line drawing and block in method, I found Jon's emphasis on gesture and inner curve lines very refreshing. He doesn't disavow the Bargue method but shows how gesture drawing can be a great tool to use along with the block in.
Well, I'm about to go in the studio so heres the end of my first post, Ciao.