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".
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Friday, July 30, 2010
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
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
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"
"Maud after Eakins" oil on linen on board, 8"x10"
Friday, July 23, 2010
So the other day I was hangin' with Eakins and I asked him if he'd mind if I took a stab at copying his portrait of Maud. He laughed and said "you think you're up to it, boy?". I said "well no, but that never stopped me before". He said "well go on then, it's your funeral." I asked him to give me some advice and to write down a list of the colors and mixtures that he used but by then he'd had enough of me and threw me out of his studio. So with the painting in hand I went back to my own place and began to try and figure it out. It seemed to me that he mostly used earth colors, burnt sienna, yellow ochre, raw umber, along with flake white and ivory black. He used a little bit of a strong red for accents, I'm guessing vermillion, which I didn't have any of so I used cadmium red light. I've seen Eakins spend months on some portraits and others he knocked out in a single session. I'm guessing that he painted this one pretty directly so that's what I did too. I can see a few things that are off and that will need fixin' before I would dare to show it to him, but I'll wait until the whole things done before I start fiddlin' around. Damn earth colors dry up so fast that by the end of a day's work I can't make any last minute changes because the colors already drying and lightening. I'll oil it out eventually and then I'll show him.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
I'm just about finished with "Tea Pot and Oranges" oil on linen 11"x14" and "Morgan" oil on linen 9"x12". I've been working very hard with the figure painting to conceptualize the light and try to more accurately guage the correct value and chroma. I started to ask myself questions about how the arm for instance would be lit from a light that was almost parallel to it. This made me go back in on the second pass and pretty much repaint everything, carving down the light where it's turned away and adding light where it faces the source more directly. I have just the chest area left to complete, which is good since I only have one more session with the model. I've been spending a lot of time looking at two artists this summer; Eakins and Chardin. I'm working hard to apply the things that I percieve in their work to my own practices. Not stylistic things so much but more of how they present their truths to the viewer. I've been influenced as well by something I read by Graydon Parrish concerning the mixing of a specific color. Something like, first identify and mix the hue, then get the hue to be the right value, then mix up a pile of neutral color that's of equal value, and then mix the neutral pile into the hue pile until you arrive at the correct chroma (intensity). I don't use it for every color in the painting but I have been using it for some things with interesting results.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Friday, July 16, 2010
After some deliberation, I decided that oranges would probably work best in the composition of this painting. I was contemplating peaches but I didn't see any that I liked at the fruit store. I've had a hankering for painting oranges anyway after seeing Michael Klein's exhibit at Arcadia which featured a great still life of a crate of oranges. They're set back from the more intense light that falls on the pot and cloth, which allowed me to continue my experiments with chroma intensities. In particular I've been looking at Chardin and the way that he sometimes washes the chroma almost completely out of parts of his paintings and yet they still seem wholly plausible. They have the intensity of smoldering embers in a burned out campfire.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
The third pass is nearly completed. I have a few changes and touch-ups to do after oiling it out. Lately I've been experimenting with a different color mixing system. Normally I would lower the chroma of a color by adding earth colors and then a little white to retain the value. Due to some of the practices that I've learned about from other artists I've been lowering the chroma by mixing it with a neutral base of the same value. It's been interesting to me to see how far down you can cut the chroma and still have it work within the harmony of the painting. It allows the fuller chromatic passages to really sing out. Anyways I used the method pretty extensively in this one and it's a neat little tool to have in my arsenal.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
I decided to model the block-in to help clarify my thoughts about how to proceed with the painting. My guess was that just like a photo of a person tends to highlight the darks and lights, resulting in a flat appearance, the photo of a painting would probably result in the same effect. So I decided not to copy the values exactly as they appear in the reproduction but to instead conceptualize the forms with regard to their angle to and distance from the light source. The way that I imagine Eakins, with his training, and interest in optics, would have worked. I spent a lot of time working and re-working the face trying to show the compressed range of values in the shadow side of the face without having it look spotty, or like a topo map. I think having this drawing as a guide will definitely help with the painting. If I had the time, I would make a drawing like this for everything I'm painting, including still lifes. There's something about the slow process of pencil modeling that helps me to slow down and really start to understand what's going on. I tried out a new kind of pencil that was recommended to me by one of my instructors. It's a mechanical pencil that holds .3 size lead, which is small enough to model forms without ever having to be sharpened. It's not quite as subtle as a sharpened point but it's pretty close and you don't have to stop, ever, which allows one to easily reach that heightened state of concentration.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Last summer I did a copy of one of Sargents little Capri girl paintings so this summer I decided to try an Eakins. The drawing and painting are both 8"x10". I transferred the block-in with tracing paper and then did a wipeout with burnt umber. I tried to give it the look of one of Eakins unfinished paintings so I added Flake white to the lighter areas by scumbling over the wipeout. Since taking these photos I've already started to model the pencil drawing. It's amazing how broadly Eakins would paint the forms before adding just enough refinement to make them live. I don't know why I'm making such a small copy. I guess it's because I have a box of wood panels with glued linen laying around. This is going to be a fun challenge.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Here's the latest on my once a week figure painting.(9"x12"). I feel like I'm doing a pretty good job of shaping the light, but I'm not getting the refinement of forms and the connection between the forms. That could be do to lack of experience, not seeing enough of the underlying anatomy or not toning down the turning forms enough. I have three more three hour sessions with the model so I plan to oil out and just start tinkering my way down the form. I might lose some of the freshness of the paint handling, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Saturday, July 3, 2010
"Miniature Canoes" 8"x10". Here's the wipeout and poster study for a new painting. I got the canoes from a store in the Adirondacks. I had purchased them as stand ins for a painting that I'm thinking about that combines some elements from life and imagination. I had placed them on top of the book, momentarily, while I was thinking about how to use them, when I caught a sideways glance and thought "hmm, that's not bad.." so I did a transfer drawing and got it going. The poster has exactly the color that I want the final painting to have so I'll be following it pretty closely.
Posted by Shawn Sullivan at 1:40 PM
Friday, July 2, 2010
"Yellow Rose and Cast" 8"x10" oil on linen. This is the final version. I purposely kept most of the rose stem compressed and simplified so as not to detract from the center of interest. I also used more of an "earthy" green by mixing ultramarine blue with yellow ochre. It wasn't an exact match chromatically but it seem to fit the painting.
Posted by Shawn Sullivan at 11:19 AM