Monday, July 20, 2015

More "Charity"

   I 've spent quite a bit of time working on this drawing. The painting is 16 x 20 and the composition is pretty complicated. I find that the more time I spend on the drawing the less I have to fudge around while I'm painting. Some artists prefer to find the edges as they paint and I totally get that, but for me it's those  little almost unnoticeable nuances that give beauty and life to a painting and I'll never get them with the blunter point of a paintbrush.

These were taken with my cell phone so I apologize for the glare. The second photo is after I've transferred the drawing to the panel using conte crayon on the back. I used to make a photo copy of the drawing but then I started to accumulate all of these still life block ins and my studio is already crammed to the gills, so now I trace over the original drawing. I'm excited about painting this one, and as my usual procedure I'll start with the perishable (bread) first. Some artists have started to dispense with the wipe out stage and go directly to the color wash, but I find that it gives a certain richness to the subsequent layers.

Thursday, July 16, 2015


   These two pics show the setup and beginning block-in for a new large still life, "Charity", 16" x 20". I've been thinking about this idea for a while now, probably over a year. When I saw this old window in an antique shop in Connecticut, I immediately decided to take the idea off the backburner and get started. Eventually a piece of crusty old bread will go in that wooden bowl. I had this vision of a mysterious window in a small town somewhere where food and drink was left on the ledge for any traveler who might be happening to pass by, that was in need of nourishment. The rose inside of the window was meant to symbolize the good intentions of the person who left the food out. These days I've been thinking a lot about incorporating some elements in my paintings that are made up. Some artists are quite happy when a viewer makes the comment that their painting looks "as good as a photograph". They realize it's meant as a compliment. I personally cringe whenever I hear that, because I want my work to be so much more than a literal depiction of what's in front of me. With the addition of things that I'm imagining rather than depicting, I think it will be less likely that the "photograph" comment will come up, and people will begin to see the qualities of the work that are unique to painting and could never be captured by a photograph. Why "Charity"? I often think about how even with the best plans and intentions we often need someone's help to get ahead. I'm a pretty proud and stubborn person and many times that has led me to refuse offers of help that were probably genuine and would have benefitted me greatly. As I look back in reflection I realize that most of the milestones that matter in my life could not have been achieved without a little "charity" and for that I am eternally grateful.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

More Poms

 I've gotten a bit further on the small painting "Pomegranate, Canoe, and Box" oil on panel, 8"x10". My usual method when painting fruit is to do a raw umber wipeout and then do a color wash underpainting (ebauche) focusing on the fruit because that's the perishable. I use Liquin for the ebauche, it gives the paint a nice semi glossy transparency and it dries quickly. The photo below shows the completion of the next stage. I start the finishing pass by first laying a couche (thin coating) of my medium (Gamblin Neo-Megilp), which is a modern substitute for Maroger medium (black oil). I mix up my neutral string of colors and my color specific strings and I begin to lay in my block-in adding medium as I go. I usually pick one area that includes a large range of hue, value, and chroma and bring it to completion in order to key the painting. Once I've blocked in that area I'll go back in with "bridge" values and colors so that the larger areas will have smoother transitions, and yet still show some brush strokes, what Ted Seth Jacobs calls "shaping the light". Even though I have a string of colors mixed I'm still doing a lot of improvising with my brush, it's not "paint by numbers" by any means.
       I'm teaching an art class at the Brooklyn Museum of Art to teenagers, which is fun, because they want you to focus on a current exhibit along with your art project. Even though my work could be classified as "academic" that doesn't mean I'm not open to other types of art, as they say "variety is the spice of life". Occasionally I'll get to incorporate some of my own methodologies into what I'm teaching. I'm also starting to teach an adult still life class this Monday at the National Art League . I've got seven students signed up so far, so I'm excited. It's a lot of work preparing, I have to construct seven shadow boxes, and lighting setups. I want to focus on working from life because I feel that that's the best way to learn.
  You can see in this snap with my phone that I've painted the pomegranate and canoe up to a finish. I usually do a bit of the background because I want to work the edges while the paint is still wet, and it also makes it easier to judge your value relationships.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


I've decided to try out selling some of my smaller paintings, 5" x 5" on Ebay. (look for direct from the artist Shawn Sullivan). I'm recently retired from my day job as a high school art teacher for thirty years and now I'll have the time to try out something that I've always wanted to do. My larger works will still be available in galleries, these will just be some fun smaller paintings. I wouldn't call them daily paintings because I spend about as much time as I do on the larger ones. I'd call them affordable Classical Realism! Here's the first one "Binoculars" oil on cradled gessoboard, 5" x 5".
Here's the Ebay link  Hopefully this works, I have to figure out an easier way to paste the address in.


I love painting pomegranates, but I haven't done one in quite some time. There's something about the grittiness and those dusky sunset reds that I find very appealing. The two pics below show the start. I transferred a carefully made pencil drawing to gessoboard and then I did a wipe out using raw umber. The next day I began a thin color wash underpainting starting with the pomegranate. I always enjoy painting something that requires me to use several hues of the same color. In this case I used permanent alizarin crimson, cadmium red deep, cadmium red medium, and cadmium red light. I generally mix out several strings of color, including a neutral string, before I start to paint. This is a pretty small painting, 8" x 10", I'm hoping that the pomegranate will keep it's glorious color long enough for me to paint it. If it doesn't I'll just go out and get another one and use the colors to paint it from memory.