Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Models Away

While the models away the artist will play! My models not coming back for two weeks so I threw her necklace and shirt onto a mannequin and went to work. Then I was thinking about starting in on the background cloth and I happened to be looking out of the window and I thought "hmm, why not?" I've been looking at a book on Ingres lately and those early portraits with the Roman backgrounds are just smokin'. Unfortunately I don't live in Rome so my measley backyard will have to do for now. I decided to block it in on an overcast day because I want to keep it somewhat muted and in the background with little contrast. I had to put a mannequin by the window with a skull balanced on it to get the proportions right, I hope none of my nosy neighbors were looking in.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Slow Crawlings

I'm taking it reallll slow. My models not coming back for a few weeks but I got her to leave her shirt and necklace so I can keep busy. Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

My Adult Students

These are two examples of paintings from the adult painting class I'm teaching at the National Art League, by Karen and Rhoda. There's a third one by my daughter Krista, which isn't completed yet. It's so nice to teach a class with a block of time longer than 40 minutes, and it's also great to be finally teaching adults. I love teenagers but they are soooo high maintenance!. Most of the classes at the N.A.L. work from photos so setting up a life painting class was quite a challenge. I had to bring my own spotlight, attach it to the ceiling, turn off all of the room lights and clip a small individual lamp with 15 watt bulbs to each easel. It took them a little getting used to working in relative darkness but it was the best way to keep the still life simply lit with a single light source. Both are on 11"x14" canvases. I had them draw directly with charcoal, do a wipe-out, make a small color study, mix up color strings, and then paint each form directly, tiling across the forms, wet-in-wet. For the next one I'm having them draw on paper first, and then transfer, so we can work on some basic block-in skills as well as painting issues.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Wipeouts, Block-Ins, and Studies

"Julia Back From Moscow" 11"x14" oil on linen, "Julia Study" oil on canvas board, 5"x7", "Jug, Pan, and Vase" oil on linen, 9"x12", study 5"x7". As you can see it's been a busy weekend. I tweaked Julia's portrait until I finally got a likeness and I was happy with the block-in. The wipeout always loses a little something and then you have to find your way back again. The study went pretty well considering it's taking me a little getting used to painting a portrait in daylight. Next session I'm going to just go for it and start windowshading my way across.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


"Julia" 11"x14", "Jug, Pan, and Vase" 9"x12". Okay so after my little diversions I decided to get back to basics. Julia was blocked in in about 2 and a half hours. I was hoping to have it transfer ready but I'm going to seek further refinement in another drawing session. It already looks quite a bit like her but as Sargent used to say " a portrait is a painting where there's a little something wrong with the mouth". The still life and portrait are both being done under natural light, which lately seems to be my favorite. I realize now that I can have my faster sketchier work and my slower work, but to combine them is to take the middle road which can never be good. It's best to just let the two modes compliment each other.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Julia and Grapes

"Julia" 16"x20" oil on linen on board, "Grapes and Yellow Vase" 11"x14" oil on linen on board.

I worked on getting Julia's portrait in. My goal was to start broadly and then work my way to the smaller forms. I also wanted to pretty much complete the face all of a piece in a single session. I started by painting a velatura over my underpainting, Basically thinned down middle tone flesh color so the shadows would partly show through and give me a map to paint over. I think I'll finish the rest of the figure before I go back to the face. I can see why Sargent wiped out his portraits so often. It's difficult to make it look broadly painted yet specific to the light and the model. Anyways I'll keep playing around with this until I kill it or something clicks.


"Strawberries" 8"x10" oil on linen on panel. I decided to make this a one shot, alla prima painting, so I was determined to complete it in a single session, and I just made it as the light was starting to fade as I put on the finishing touches. The tricky thing about painting in daylight is that it's a little bit harder to see, so I always leave time at the end of the session to look at the painting under the lamps and see if theres anything that needs fixing. I have a show coming up and I wanted to show my students an example of bravura painting.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Joe and Clawfeet

Both paintings are on 8"x10" panels. Joe was a three hour sketch done with my Tuesday night figure group. I've been trying to keep my procedure as simple as possible to get as much of a portrait as I can in a three hour time span. I guess the models must think I'm crazy because there they are posing nude and I'm painting their portrait. I've always felt the portrait was my achilles heel in my figure paintings so I've decided to really push myself harder in that direction.

The still life was something that I observed just hanging out underneath another setup and I decided to go for it. I'm trying to be more open and less programmatic about my process. I don't want to mix up my inspiration in a lab vile and hope to have the right formula. My focus is on the things that I love about painting and to make that the subject of the paintings, with that in mind, it really doesn't matter what I paint.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

New Faces

"Victoria" oil on linen on board, 8" x 10", "Julia" oil on linen on board, 16" x 20", Victoria was done in three hours with my saturday portrait group. I feel like I nailed it on this one, and now I've got to decide whether or not to work more on it at the next session or start a new one. The biggest concern is that my buddy Carlos isn't sure whether we have one more session with this model or three more. Aargh! Julia is a portrait that I've just started at my home studio. I have her posing facing a north window directly across from my easel. Like I tell my students. right now this painting is in it's ugly phase. Most paintings go through that. If you stick with it eventually it'll come around. I spent about two and a half hours on the block-in and then I started rushing a little at the end in panic mode, never a good idea. But I'm really enjoying the whole daylight painting thing. In fact, I'm going to make it the focus of my still lifes as well. Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

"Cup with Pomegranates"

"Cup with Pomegranates" oil on linen, 11"x14". I drew directly on the canvas with thinned paint and just went for it. It's set up in my studio under modified natural ligh tflorescent bulbs. The modification is that I've noticed even the most daylight rated bulbs leave out some of the warmth of the reds and oranges so I aded a small incandescent spot to the mic and I seem to be getting a fuller spectrum now. I'm painting a bit more spontaneously now, I've got a new bumper sticker "WWSD?" What Would Sargent Do?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Portrait Studies

These are a couple of small (8"x10") portraits done in a single session, on a white, untoned, canvas board. My procedure is to draw directly on the canvas using raw umber thinned with oms. I'm drawing with a small synthetic bright made by Robert Simmons for acrylic paint. It makes very gestural, softish marks where I can do a light block-in. Once that's resolved I take a small synthetic round and re-draw my lines and terminator lines. I try to keep detail to a minimum at this point and concentrate on getting accurate shadow shapes. Than I wash in the shadow shapes with umber, add some secondary tones, and background. My next step is to identify the overall local flesh color of the model and thinly brush in the shadow tone and middle tone. Once I'm happy with that I begin to refine the larger planes working my way towards smaller forms without losing the big masses. I've been doing a lot of quick painting lately, demos and such, and it's really impacting my approach to painting.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Orange Crate

Wow! A lot of glare on this one! Anyways, this is a small 9"x12" still life that I have set up next to a window in my studio. My easel is arranged to be in the same light which makes it kind of nice when I'm trying to match the values and colors. I drew on the canvas directly with a brush dipped in oms and raw umber over a white canvas and then quickly washed in a full color thinned down underpainting. I'm using bristle flats on this one and trying to be a bit more spontaneous and less uptight about the details. My plan is to go for the big look first and then add details where I want them.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


"Pancho" 11"x14", oil on linen. This one seemed almost to paint itself. Sometimes it goes like that. I windowshaded my way across the underpainting and had very little retouching to do at the end. I had the words of my former instructor, Robert Armetta, ringing in my ear, when he used to tell me, as I painted a detailed area to "paint it's portrait", so that's what I did with the wooden crate. If you're wondering why this photo looks so much better than the rest it's because I've finally found an affordable professional photographer to hire. His name is Devin Cecil-Wishing, he's a third year student at Grand Central Academy, he does all of their artwork photography, and best of all if you're in the New york metro area, he will travel to your studio. Drop me a line if you're interested, and i'll give you his contact info.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Small Faces

Two quick three hour sketches and a study after Charles Bargue. All on 8"x10" canvas panels. I'm starting to enjoy the quick portrait sketches a little more although I still find the whole process somewhat torturous overall. It completely goes against the grain of my perfectionist methods which I'm guessing in the end will prove to be a good thing.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Chasing The Model

"Portrait Study" 9"x12" oil on linen on board, "Caesar's Last Bath" oil on linen on board 16"x20", "Pancho" 16"x20" oil on linen. Not doing a great job with the photographing but I thought I'd blog these anyway. I will rephoto after varnishing and post better shots. The portrait study was made at my saturday mornings group session. The model came in having had only one hour's sleep (not her fault). The session was for three hours. She started with her head inclined and her eyes open, but her eyes kept closing and her head was flopping around like one of those bobble heads. I kept hearing my former instructors voice like Obi Wan telling me to use my experience to paint the portrait rather than relying on observation alone, so I gave it my best shot and rushed to nail down what I could in 3 hours. Than my friend Carlos tells me afterwards that he's going to have the model back for another 4 hour session. I wanted to shoot myself in the foot. So in this session I worked on getting the hair in, correcting the drawing and smoothing some of the transitions. The model seemed better rested but she still could not hold the pose. I guess if I ever decide to paint someones portrait on the subway I'm going to be well prepared.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

"Dog,Turban, and Rose"

"Dog, Turban, and Rose" 11"x14" oil on canvas. Finished this one just in the nick of time because the angle of the sunlight was shifting significantly. The window I'm using is northeast so at certain times of the year and day it's somewhat muted and than at other times, like now, it can be quite glaring.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Study (8"x10") canvas board, block-in (16"x20") pencil on strathmore, wipe-out (16"x20") oil on linen. I'm continuing to make studies that are a little bit larger. Using a digital photo, I'm able to print a nice 8"x10" that I transfer to a 9"x12" board. I feel that the larger studies are helping me to get more of a handle on what I want the final picture to look like. I'm moving away a bit from the more abstract poster studies of the Ryder school to something more in the nature of a painted sketch. I saw some of Jacob Collins studies at the Adelson gallery exhibit and they inspired me quite a bit. This painting didn't start off with a theme, it just kind of composed itself and the theme became crystal clear as I went along. Sometimes a bit of that "channeling" will happen and I just run with it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Turbans, etc;

I've completed work on "Turbans, Mermaid, and Rose" oil on linen, 16"x20". Even with all the careful planning, drawings, posters, wipeout, ebauche, etc; the end result is always something of a surprise, in this case, pleasantly. I decided to do a colored ebauche for "Turban, Dog, and Rose" oil on linen, 11"x14", since I was happy with my last experiment. This painting is strictly daylit and a bit of a challenge to see my palette and colors with the clarity that I'm used to, but i think in the end there will be a payoff. I have one last session with Caesar, 16"x20", so I'm hoping I can finish the legs. If I had hired this model myseld I would completely repaint the picture and consider the first pass a finished ebauche. That's because I'm having a hard time with this linen board and I'm not getting as much paint on in the finishing layer as I prefer. Still, it's an okay sketch, and grist for the mill, as they say.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Rainy Day Painting

Since I'm currently working on a still life that requires daylight, I need something to occupy my time on rainy days so I started a study of this Bargue painting which I've always loved. The reproduction is only a couple of inches so it's been a little tough, but even at that scale Bargues brilliance shines through. As I was working on the drawing block-in I was starting to tune in to all of these internal rhythms and inner curves that crisscross throughout the painting. For a brief moment i felt a kind of mind-meld thing happening and I guess that's the great thing about art is that something can reach out across the centuries and affect someone in a very immediate way.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

More "Turbans, Mermaid, and Rose"

Some people might be wondering what's up with the turbans, if they're symbolic in any way. No, I just like painting cloth and the homemade turbans create interesting juxtapositions of light and color. Also, they are featured quite a bit in the work of artists that I admire such as Bargue, Gerome, Rembrandt, and Vermeer. I like having a model wear one of my home made creations because it involves a bit of role playing and by taking the model outside of their ordinary existence it allows me a glimpse into their real personality which will hopefully make for a better painting.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"Erica" Completed

"Erica with Turban" 9"x12" oil on linen. That's a wrap on this one. I followed pretty much the method of my training and I went straight through from start to finish without any reworking. I worked really hard to make sure each little area was exactly how I wanted it while the paint was still wet. Erica probably wishes I had made her a little more "glam" or feminine, but that wasn't really what I had in mind. I've probably been looking at too many "bashi-bazouks". I'm going to line up a new model and jump back in while my feet are still wet. The study was done on a 8"x10" canvas panel. I usually work smaller but that's the size that my printer spit out and I went with it. I've got to get this one nailed down before the light changes. This time of year it changes very fast.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"Turban, Dog, and Rose"

Here's the wipe-out and block-in drawing for "Turban, Dog, and Rose" 11"x14" on linen. This setup is next to a window with semi north light, so theres a lot of chiaroscuro. My easel is setup next to an adjacent window with full on daylight so I can see what I'm doing. The light isn't good in the mornings so I think I'll work on this one in the afternoon and my artificial light setup in the mornings. It'll be interesting to compare the lighting and coloration schemes.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"Turbans..." Ebauche and Color Study

The color study is on a panel about 5"x7". I took a photo of my block-in drawing, printed it, and then used it to make a charcoal transfer. It made it a lot easier to come up with a mini version to use for a color study. The ebauche on the larger painting (16"x20") has a bit of that dead coloring that comes from working over a wipe-out. I prefer it to doing a color ebauche directly on the white canvas because I kind of like that neutrality to guage my colors against when I do my finishing pass (next stage).

Saturday, August 6, 2011

"Turbans, Mermaid, and Rose"

16" x 20" on oil primed linen. The drawing block in was transferred using tracing paper and charcoal. Some artists will make a smaller drawing and than enlarge it at a copy center. I like to draw at the actual size because I feel it's a bit like a dress rehearsal for making the painting. After drawing, tracing, transferring and inking, I have the memory of those form lines embedded in my brain, kind of like a golfer practicing strokes. My inking of my transferred drawing is always a little wobbly. I wish I had Doug Flynt's steady hand. It doesn't matter too much because I leave the block-in kind of Bargued out (straight lines only) so that I can do a lot of edge drawing with my brush in the finishing pass. The colors of the homemade turbans are pretty intense and look great under the lights so I hope that I can get half of what I'm seeing, it'll be a good painting. Next step is to make a small study in full color and than I'll just start window shading my way across the canvas.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


16"x20" oil on linen on gatorboard. The model insists on being called Ceasar, who am I to argue? It took me quite a bit of coaxing to get him into this pose. I sort of had in mind Michelangelo's surprised bathers. I managed to get the model's angry determined look at the first session (he really didn't like this pose) and it sort of conveys to me the moment when Ceasar sees Brutus coming towards him. I'd really like to finish the whole figure, so I'm working fairly quickly (for me). I might try and convince my Tuesday night paint group to continue this one past the summer. The one problem that I'm having is that the Classens linen on board just does not have the same characteristics as the stretched linen. I'm having a hard time getting the paint to cooperate. It's sliding around and picking up with subsequent brushstrokes. It's driving me crazy because for once I know exactly what I want and I'm having to fumble around. Lesson learned; if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Erica's Nose

oil on linen. 9"x12" I can't tell you what a pleasure it is to be working from the live model in my own studio, with my own lighting, on my own schedule. The money that I've been putting into part time atelier classes for the last seven years has now been re-routed towards the hiring of models. Have I learned all that I need to know to make successful paintings? Who knows, but one thing is for sure; I'm learning a lot doing what I'm doing.