Friday, December 31, 2010

Painting Out Of 2010

A little more progress on the new one, finished first GCA figure painting in color, tweaked birdbath painting. A good way to end the year. Next year I plan to be bolder with my color, brushstrokes, and compositions, but boldness guided by knowledge and planning. Can you plan for boldness? we'll see! Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Painted Vase

"Painted Vase" oil on linen, 16"x20" . It's been a while since I've worked on a larger canvas and it feels pretty good, kinda liberating. I decided to skip all the amenities; wipe-out,ebauche,poster study, and just go for it. The oranges and the grapes have a brilliant color that I know was not going to last for very long, so I went for it. Artists often talk about obliterating the white of the canvas but I've heard artists such as Scott Burdick, Jeffrey Larson and Stephen Gjertson talk about how they see the values set up on their palette and use that as their guide, at least in the beginning stages. Stephen Gjertson has a wonderful half started painting of some bowls of fruit on his website under the heading "working methods" found in the "interviews" section. I've worked this way before but one of the things that I'm finding is that it is much easier to get the edges to look the way that I want them to and the white of the canvas is also forcing me to paint a bit thicker in the lights. We'll see what happens when I'm all done. Looking forward to a new year, hope you are too!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

First Sketch

This is a little 5"x7" sketch from my imagination that I've been thinking about doing for a few weeks. I'm fascinated by the process that artists had to go through to compete in the Prix de Rome. They would be given a subject and had to come up with thumbnails, sketches and a fully realized color study that if they were chosen would be worked up into a full blown painting using life references. So eventually I would like to follow that process for this painting. The subject is a figure in a dark studio holding up a panel to a window that causes the light to flow in a beam onto a table where a model of a gothic building stands. I'm not sure what it all means, maybe it's about what inspires me, I don't want to figure it out before I've even started to really paint it. My next step will be to construct a box with a little tableau and see what the light might actually do in this kind of setup. Hopefully this summer I'll be able to hire a model and see it happen. That will give me a lot of time to really study the idea. But this little sketch already has my blood going and I guess that's what's supposed to happen.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Bird Bath

I finished the first finishing pass, it's a little sunken in but it gives the general idea. I probably should have taken a photo of the underpainting, it had a really cool look. I decided to use a frottis (rub-in) on top of the wipeout to get a general color scheme before I started to window shade my way through the painting. The bird bath was taken from my backyard so it had a wonderful weathered patina but it also meant that the surface was so dull and matte that it absorbed the light like a black hole. This is where my cast training came in handy I just imagined each forms relation to the light and painted it that way while still keeping the values very compressed in order to still keep the weathered look. I also found a lot of subtle hvc shifts that were fun to play with. The background was treated rather sketchy so as not to overkill the amount of detail in the painting and to act as a foil to the birdbath and flower. One of the things that I'm beginning to notice is that when I'm loading these paintings to post them the finished paintings and the poster study, when seen in a one inch thumbnail, look almost identical. That's good. that means my small studies are serving their intended purpose and that they are helping me to conceptualize a bit more rather than just eyeballing the arrangements.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Bird Bath

"Bird Bath" 11'x14" oil on canvas. Heres the poster study (5"x7"), drawing and wipeout for a new painting. I've been thinking about this composition for a while. My original plan was to paint it out of doors with the sky reflecting in the water around the flower but I procrastinated so now it sits in my studio. I still might do another one like that in the spring. Anyways I kind of like the idea of the contrast between this very dull colored object and the burgundy red background all being keyed off of the flower. The poster is pretty spot on so I'm debating whether or not to do a fully colored ebauche (underpainting) or just jump right in.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Pumkin Final

"Pumpkin and White Onions" 11"x14" oil on linen. I worked hard on this one to achieve a variety of textures and a heirarchy of detail. The pumpkin is pretty tight, next the onions and then varying degrees of focus for the rest. I wanted to give the feel of the fded box without necessarily painting every crevace. I kept stepping back quite a bit and asking myself if it had the feel as well as the look. I like the shadow box effect of the hanging cloth and I think I'm going to explore it in some other paintings.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Form Crawlings

I got three more hours in each on the figure and the portrait. I'm using the same pre-mixed palette for each, under the same lighting, with different results. Go figure. I'm happy with the way the figure is going, I'm not sure about the portrait yet. I wish that I had done a smaller study first, but I thought I had only five sessions so I wanted to get right to it. Now it turns out I may be able to get in an extra five. I'm thinking that I may have overdone the light on the zygomatics and maybe also that the cheek that turns away could be brought down altogether a step or two. This is where having the poster as a guide comes in handy. I'll stick with this one until I get it right, but next time I'm definitely doing a poster. It's better to have one eye socket that's perfect than a whole face that's off.

Friday, November 26, 2010

More Pumpkin

It seems like I've had this one going for quite some time. Good thing the pupkin and onions are still okay. I worked hard to capture the texture of the pumpkin without destroying the big light effect. I'm using a large glass tabletop palette these days which is forcing me to slow down a bit and consider each brushstroke. An aded benefit is that it's less wearing on the brush when I occasionally have to mix between color strings. I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. Sometimes I have to remind myself just how much I have to be thankful for.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Here's some of the things that I've been working on at the GCA. The figure and the portrait are both on 9"x12" linen on board. I'm using New Dimensions panels which have Claessens oil primed linen on them and they're a big improvement over the Utrecht panels. The poster study is on a 5"x7" canvas board. I can't say enough about poster studies. If you're not using them I recommend you give them a try. I use them for two things. One, as a color swatch that I apply the paint onto as I'm mixing my colors to make sure that I stay in the same range, and two, to make sure I keep my values compressed withing a given area so that I don't roll out of a shadow too abruptly or stay dark for too long. For these paintings I'm using pre-mixed strings of colors that I put into syringes ( I got the idea from some of the artists at rational painting). I'm using a very limited palette of flake white, van dyke brown,vermilion and yellow ochre. I'm learning to temper the colors with neutrals as I go in order to better turn down the forms away from the light. The portrait I'm working on in an informal setting with some other GCA artists that I'm really awed to be working along side. I'm going to try to pick up as much as I can without being intrusive.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pumpkin Underpainting and Study

"Pumpkins, Onions, and Ladle" 11"x14", study on a 5"x7" canvas board. I originally wanted a white pumpkin with the orange one but I couldn't find one so I substituted white onions. The shadow box like background came about accidentally because I have this sitting under a previous still life arrangement and part of it hangs over. At first I was going to wait until I could break down the above set up but then I kind of liked it and decided to go with it. Que Sera.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Figure Studies

Some of my latest figure paintings. The top two are on 8"x10" panels, three hour poses, and the bottom is an 11"x14", about twenty one hours. The top one and the longer pose one were done at Grand Central, the other one at the national art league in douglaston. The lighting at grand central is way better than the setup that I'm using at the art league. I've joined another informal figure group that meets at GCA saturday mornings, so with that and my Tuesday group and the saturday class I'm getting quite a bit of figure work in. It's about time.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Listening Devices

"Listening Devices" 11"x14" oil on linen Another one of my "thematic" still life paintings. I'm not sure what it all means, but I enjoyed conjuring it up and then painting it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Red Potatoes Final

"Red Potatoes, Book, and Vase" oil on linen 8"x10"

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

More "..Devices"

Finished the ebauche over an earlier wipeout and now I'm slowly crawling my way across the forms. Some people like to draw out the letters on their objects but I prefer to block in the form first and then just blast in the letters while the paint is still wet. Most of the time I'm not really trying to match the exact letters, I'm just going for an overall feel, I don't really want people reading my paintings.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Red Potatoes

Another 8"x10" canvas. Theres something about red potatoes that makes me want to paint them. Theres a range of subtle chroma shifts and a kind of smoldering intensity where the brighter reds peek through the earthier colors. I'm starting to figure out that this is the way that works best for me. The colored ebauche has it's merits but theres something about seeing the simple wipeout come to life that gets my blood going. I'm willing to take the risk of failure because when I get it right it has a spontaneity that I can't plan for.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Figure Study

This was done on an 8"x10" panel from a three hour pose with my Tuesday night figure drawing group. After seeing some studies posted by Tim Stotz on Studio Escalier's blog, Silver Fortress, I was inspired to try a study in a similar vein.I'm not sure that I'm on the same page (I've never studied with Tim) but what I did here was lay down a brushstroke for each value change relative to the direction of the light, tiling my way across the form. I kept all of my edges sharp to keep the clarity of what each plane change was doing. The lighting that we're using is not ideal. The walls are all white and the model stand is light gray. I'm using a very powerful incandescent spotlight to burn through all of the ambient light and at least on some level give a unified cut to the direction of the light. Using this method was interesting because it made me conceptualize the light even more and coincidentally this came up as the main topic in the discussion of the figure painting I'm working on at GCA. How to unify the darks in the figure ground relationship and push the lights forward to give emphasis to the salient parts of the figure. So I think I will keep going with these little painting studies for a while before I pick up my pencil again.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Listening Devices

poster 6"x8", canvas 11"x14".

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Moroccan Sweets

"Moroccan Sweets" 11"x14" oil on linen. I did a lot of repainting on this one. Even though my method is to try and nail it on the first finishing pass I'm getting the feeling that my style is a lot like lasagna and taste better the second time around.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

More Jugs and Oranges

Here's a progress shot. The oranges are already a little sunken in even though I only did them yesterday, that's what happens in a heat wave. I'm working really hard to get the jug on the left to sit in the shadows, I've almost got it but I'm not satisfied so I'll oil out and go back in after I complete the background. Everything is relative, hence the need for a poster, but even with the poster study some things will slip by you, I guess that's what keeps us coming back.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Covered Jugs Poster and Ebauche

I decided to alter my original lighting setup a bit. After looking at the painting and realizing that I had so many objects with a similar look I decided to put up some baffles so that the light would be dimmer on the left side while emphasizing the jugs on the right. I didn't want the painting to look like a catalog shot. It also has more of a natural daylight feel with the softer edges of the objects that are more in shadow. Generally I don't do too much blurring of edges to get an effect. I realized that if I'm working too hard to make an edge disappear than I probably don't have the correct value. When you have the right value in the right place very little smushing of edges are needed. The poster is on a very small 6"x8" panel which keeps me from getting overly fussy. Generally I do the poster before the ebauche so that I have some idea where I'm going and if I'm fortunate to be able to do them on the same day then the colors are already mixed and I can just blast it in.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Covered Jugs and Clementines

Started a new painting, "Covered Jugs and Clementines" 11"x14" oil on linen. I decided to push the drawing towards further refinement before making the transfer on this one. Usually I would stop at the block-in stage, where I'm drawing from point to point with straight lines, but I've decided to step it up a little bit to see what happens. I'm also using a different transfer method than usual. Normally I would trace the drawing, flip it over and trace the back with sharpened vine charcoal and then transfer that to the canvas by tracing again. This time I traced the drawing with a black ball point pen, covered the entire back with vine charcoal, and then traced it onto the canvas going over the lines with a red ball point pen. Then I used brush and india ink to finalize the charcoal lines. So it's a little more exact but there are still some problems. One is that the texture of the double primed linen can make using the ball point pen on the tracing paper a little squirrelly. The other is that sometimes the charcoal can be hard to make out. I was inspired to try this method by the demo I saw on Doug Flynt's blog, but he makes a photocopy of his drawing, then covers the back with raw umber and does the transfer. I may try that on the next one and see if I can get an even cleaner line. I'm trying to streamline my process in order to move forward a bit. Painting is hard enough that I want as many of the cards stacked in my favor as possible before I even pick up the brush.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

More Eggs and Portrait Study

The portrait is from my bi-weekly figure group. It's on a prestained 8"x10" oil on board. I decided to use a grisaille palette to prepare for the figure painting class that I'll be taking saturdays at GCA. It was a three hour pose, so I had to work pretty fast. I drew directly with the brush and dove in. I was inspired by the small premier coup portraits of Travis Schlaht. The only problem was that one of my fellow artists started a conversation with the model while she was posing, so I got a real lesson in portrait painting on the go!.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Turban Final

"Turban, Rose, and Goblet" oil on linen, 11"x14"

The hardest thing about this painting was that I was dealing with a lot of specular (highlights) light. I couldn't do my usual stepping back, squinting and comparing, because the light would change with each position. In that case I had to pretty much go with my instinct and if it felt right I would leave it. I did go back in and rework some areas without, hopefully, losing the integrity of my first impression. The turban was fun to paint and I might be tempted to try another one. Anyways, this still life was inspired by looking at the paintings of Charles Bargue. I don't know if that comes across at all but that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Egg Jars

"Egg Jars" 8"x10" oil on linen on wood. Transferred my drawing to a panel that I had previously stained. Then I decided to use a hatching technique for the underpainting. I'm not sure why, I just kinda felt like it. I don't think I'll do a colored ebauche over this I think I'll just dig in and start window shading it tomorrow. I'll probably start with the eggs in order to key the values in the painting.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

More Turban

Got the rose in last week and finished the turban today. Took a week off to go camping. No painting, just chillaxing with the family. I can already see some areas that need touching up but all in all, so far so good. I really pushed the chroma on the rose to make it stand out.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Eakins Study

" Study after Eakins" oil on linen on board, 8"x10". Eakins father sounds like he was the perfect "artists' dad". He supported young Eakins decision to study art. He stuck by his son when he was ousted from the Pennsylvania Academy of Art teaching staff, under what must have been very trying conditions for this stolid family man. He also took Eakins side in the dispute with his sister and her husband, who was a former Eakins student, eventually asking them to leave his household. The pose that he's in also looks very tiring and considering the way that Eakins usually worked on his portraits he probably put in some long hours modeling. In the end though he must have been pleased with the result as Eakins painting has to rank as one of the best portrayals of an artist's father by his son.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Eakins Senior

Last week, I attended a lecture relating to academic art by the artist Graydon Parrish at the Grand Central Academy of Art ( great lecture, very informative!) Since I had some time to kill before the lecture I thought I would drop in at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and look at some of the artists that would be featured in Graydon's lecture. While there I also went looking for some of Eakins work because I've been doing a lot of reading about him lately. Strangely enough, the Met currently has a lot of the American wing paintings on exhibit in some kind of storage room, locked into glass cases. In a way, it's good because very few people seem to wander in there and it facilitates prolonged study. Anyways, I spent a good deal of time looking at "The Writing Master". I've seen it before and it always captivates me. Eakins was a student of Gerome, and Gerome always claimed that Rembrandt was his favorite artist. Other than the story telling aspect though, I can find no Rembrandt influence in his paintings. Eakins painting of his father is a different story. This painting seems clearly indebted to Rembrandt without overly emulating his style. So in between drying times on other paintings I decided to give "Eakins senior" a shot. The reproduction I'm using is only about three inches tall and I'm working on an 8"x10" panel. I'm experimenting with the method I see demonstrated on Tony Ryders site which is to use an open palette (no pre-mixed color strings) and to window shade my brush strokes working from a dark base (the paint on your palette). It's fun to change things up once in a while. I'm sure this is nothing like the way that Eakins worked so I consider this more of a study than a copy.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Turban Ebauche

I blocked in the color, thinning it with oms, over the raw umber nad black wipeout. My main goal at this stage is to ballpark my color scheme and to have some color on the canvas to compare the eventual finished work. I will be asking myself questions such as; is this warmer or cooler than it looks now, darker or lighter, less chroma or more chroma. Because windowshading is such a think-on-your-feet type of painting it's helpful to have an underpainting to make comparisons with. I will use the poster study sort of like a color swatch, in that I will be putting my strings of color directly onto the poster, to make sure that they at least start off as an exact match. This helps to keep the color consistent and not piecemeal.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Croquis, Etude', Ebauche

These images are in reverse of the order that I wanted to post them. Anyways, I thought on this one that I'd try something different, break out of my comfort zone. The small sketch on looseleaf paper is my thumbnail from my imagination. I made quite a few of them, this one is the closest to the final image. Next, while I had a break at work, I made a study using acrylic paint on a canvas panel.(what I have my students use in class). That was also painted from my imagination. The drawing was my attempt to arrange a setup that was pretty close to what I had imagined and then make a life drawing. After making the drawing I realized that the composition worked better with a vertical format so I cropped it and transferred it to an 8"x10" canvas. I did a wipeout using umber and the next day I did an ebauche (the top image). If I'm pleased with the result I will square up the drawing to a larger canvas and set up the still life objects in my studio, so that I can get a little more detail and form. I started painting the fruit and potatoes today and so far so good. The landscape background is a little bit of my backyard and mostly a remembered river scene. My tentative title is "Voyage".

Friday, July 30, 2010

Turban, Rose, and Goblet

Here's the poster study and wipe-out for a new still life, "Turban, Rose, and Goblet" 11'x14" on oil primed linen. I was looking at some of Charles Bargues paintings the other day and I wanted to do something with the color key that he used in one of his Bakshi-Bazouk (sic) paintings. I twisted up the turban from two pieces of silk like cloth. The rose is yellow and has that bright Naples yellow appearance that can be found in so many of his paintings. Anyways, the "turban" is going to be fun and challenging to paint. It has some whiplash highlights that remind me of graffiti. I love doing poster studies. You can really let your hair down and just go for it. I'm also finding them very helpful with getting a grip on overall tonal structure and color composition. It takes you off of the micro and on to the macro, thinking of the painting as a whole entity rather than a collection of nicely done parts.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Morgan Complete

I ended up painting right through to the last minute of the last session. whew! Nine sessions, three hour segments, once a week, and because I worked with a group of artists it only ended up costing me about fifteen dollars a session. I would love to keep this going and just continue to do eight week sessions but the artists that I work with are not classical realists and they found it difficult to keep their interest over the long period of time. I worked on a 9"x12" inch canvas because 27 hours is barely enough time to do a detailed figure painting. 50 hours would be more to my liking. I'll be taking figure or portrait painting at GCA this fall so that will keep the ball rolling. One of the artists in my group was asking me if I found it difficult to transition from still life painting to figure painting. She's a landscape painter and she was having a lot of trouble switching gears. I told her that what I do is try to keep the process as uniform as possible so that whatever small gains I get from a painting can be repeated and built on in the next one. If you re=invent the wheel for each new painting it's hard to chart your progress. For instance on this one my progress was mostly in the area of conceptualizing the light and getting the right chroma for the skin tones. The models skin tones were a lot less chromatic then I envisioned them in my first pass. I had the spotlight almost directly over her head and slightly behind her. Once I started to ask myself what that light should look like on each part of the form I was able to get the overall light structure to look more unified. My problem area was and is painting the shadow side of the face. I din't want to just leave it an undistiguishable mass without in some way indicating the position of the eye. A lot of squinting and re-painting and I'm still not satisfied. This will be my starting point for the next one. Get this right before moving on.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"Maud" completed

I did a little bit of touching up on the outline of the cheek and the nose and that's about it. I could see that I had added a few pounds to her face, she was looking a little puffy. Other than that I painted it pretty directly, in one go, over the wipeout. I'm not sure if that's how Eakins would have painted it. I was planning on going to see the actual painting at Yale last week but it was a 95 degree day and I didn't want to deal with traffic during a heat wave. I may go next weekend.
"Maud after Eakins" oil on linen on board, 8"x10"