Last painting of 2014. I finished off this year with one I feel good about. Here's hoping 2015 will be a year of making big strides in my painting efforts, and for any other painters out there I hope you paint great paintings and sell every last one. God bless.
Not that I'm either of those things, but I do feel very honored to have my recent painting "Bailey" accepted into the Scottsdale Artists School juried show of the same name. It was nice seeing my painting up on their website along with all of the other entrants which you can see here.
I thought I'd try another go around of this same pose of Elizabeth from BayArts. This one is definitely more finished than my previous effort. I'm generally happy with this small, little painting but want to do more with the rest of the figure and environment in the future.
Not much to say here. It was pointed out to me that the highlights to the left and right of her lips may have gotten a little strong. That's possible. In a quick study things may go off like that. I'll just have to make sure I don't get lazy or impatient and really take measure of each brush stroke. That said I do think I like the shadow patterns on this one. Some definite positives to take away for the future.
So, as I'd mentioned in my previous post I've been working on this piece for several nights. It's still a work in progress and it's been a bit of a struggle given that I only have a few hours a night to devote to it. It's mainly an issue because I prefer to keep the paint as wet as possible and because of my limited time some areas will dry faster than is ideal for me. The pattern for the dress, for example, was quite the challenge. Maintaing some sense of form under her skirt with all those shapes, as well as the concern that it's busyness might detract from the focal point were considerations that took a lot of concentration to overcome. I hope it worked. Overall it was at times either tortuous or hugely pleasurable to do.
Anyway, even though there are some areas that will require some massaging I thought I'd go ahead and post it anyway since this is for sure the most total time I've spent on a painting since I've started up this blog. I will post an update later after I've added my adjustments.
Oh, also in this particular shot you can hardly make out anything in the background. It's not 100% black. In person there are folds of drapery that can be seen but the camera it seems just can't quite pick them up.
It's been a while since I've posted anything here. But it's not because I haven't been busy painting. I recently had a model come over and set her up in a pose that is a little more, shall we say, ambitious? I've been spending more time on that painting than I believe any other I've ever done. There have been some ups and downs and it's really taken a lot of concentration to figure out a plan of attack in certain parts. That plus the battle with tightening up over doing a more finished piece. I've not been 100% successful in that regard, but it's ok. It's been a learning experience and I'm still kind of excited about it. In the meantime I'm posting this study from this Friday's open studio. I feel pretty good about this one. I used some palette knife in the background and feel it's a good direction that I want to go in.
Oil on Canvas Paper - 12 x 16
P.S. Stay tuned for the above referenced painting to come.
Last week I went to the Butler Museum in Youngstown and saw Sherrie McGraw's retrospective there. I also got to see Sherrie do a portrait demo. While she demoed she encouraged all to ask any questions they had. Although I think many of her paintings are quite beautiful the one question that I had actually wondered about for a long time was how she and her husband and teacher David Leffel achieve their beautifully luscious and rich grounds. Any demo I had ever seen either of them do they always come to the painting with this medium-dark, rich looking canvas panel. So do I ask how she mixes her paints, or what canvas she uses, or what brand paints she likes (note: she likes Vasari paints), or what brushes she uses. No, I ask her what she does before she even starts painting to get those cool looking canvas panels. I hope I didn't insult her. She didn't seem insulted. She was actually very kind. Kinder than I was wise, and so she told me and this painting from this Friday's open studio was begun with the same method of creating a ground that she uses.
It still wasn't quite as nice as hers but I sort of like how the ground looked and took the paint. It was very similar to this painting.
I think I will be experimenting back and forth with this method as well as the more traditional method of just adding a tone of thinned paint.
Oil on Canvas Panel - 12 x 16
I just can't leave well enough alone. As I do frequently, I try to get away from any painting I do and then try to come back to it with a fresh eye.There were a a couple of things that were bothering me and my wife mentioned some things that I had to agree with, so --- I went back and tweaked those things.
I think it helped. Even thought the color is off a bit from the first shot.
Wow, lame title for a new post right? This was a model from a few weeks back that I didn't quite finish and only now had time to re-visit. I thought she looked Italian. Maybe I should call her Magdalena or some such name. Anyway, just a few tiny touches to the hair and nose and added some drippies to the background for arty effect.
I used a surface that I've used before, a linen panel by Centurion which is oil primed. Somehow after giving it an initial stain the surface felt quite a bit more slick than usual. Maybe it was the amount of medium I was using. Maybe it was the amount of oil I initially laid down. Whatever the case I found my paint kind of sliding around a bit. This painting looks messy, and it kind of is, but the funny thing is...I kind of like it. Something about the roughness that appeals to me. I think it's something that I would really like to explore more in the future. Another interesting thing (interesting to me anyway) was that I didn't take any photo reference, so after I got it home I made some drawing and color adjustments strictly from memory. I massaged a few little areas and that was it. Some might not be crazy about this effect but it kind of intrigues me. We'll see where it goes in the future.
I tried a little experimentation with this portrait. I decided I'd try to push the color throughout the flesh to see where it would take me or if I could pull it off. There are a few painters of the past and present that I really admire for their ability to work with and introduce color that you might not necessarily see in nature. This is very dicey. Accentuated color can turn into garish very easily. Putting in "pretty" colors just for the heck of it, or just to try to look "arty." But when it's done well it's an amazing sight to behold, IMHO. Anyway I thought it was a good exercise. I'm not quite sure I got all my values right, but that's why they call it practice, right? ;-) One other thing that happened that I was very unhappy about was that the canvas paper that I used for this portrait was really sub-par. I normally do my Friday portraits at BayArts on Lyons Canvas Paper. When I first discovered it, I thought, hey, this stuff isn't half bad. It's actually real duck canvas, and it's acrylic primed. It had a decent weave and best of all I could store probably 50 paintings in one slim drawer, rather than having stacks and stacks of stretched canvases or even canvas panels piling up. I even tried stretching a finished painting the other day onto a stretcher and it went great. No problem. But this last pad that I purchased was not good. Mostly it was the weave. It looked too regular, too perfect. It almost looked like it was stamped or debossed onto paper by a machine. Yuck. Oh well. I've heard that even very expensive rolls of linen can vary from lot to lot, so I guess it's a bit of a crap shoot either way. When I do more serious paintings I will probably (and have) pony up some extra cash and go for better stuff, but for practice I will continue to cheap out. What do you think? Color too much?
I did thisportrait of my neighbor as a gift to him for helping me put together my model stand. I told him since he was nice enough to take the time to help me that he would be my first model to jump up on it and get painted. I managed to get him to sit for me for about 2-1/2 hours including breaks. I didn't really think I could ask him to sit for much longer, but that was long enough to get some good color down and capture a decent likeness. I finished it off from some photos I took, putting in probably another 3-4 hours, and will be presenting it to him once it dries. Here's hoping he likes it. Am I happy with this painting? I think, mostly yes. It is interesting though. Knowing that this was something that I was doing for someone specifically it created a bit of internal pressure. I tended to "tighten up" when my desire is to paint looser, with a bit more of a bravura technique. I think in most of my Friday paintings I manage to keep the loose thing going. But those would probably fall into the category of practice, intended for no particular person. I think that's why my ultimate, or dream goal is not to paint commissioned portraits (although I probably wouldn't turn too many down), but rather I envision doing paintings that have greater meaning for me that happen to include people as subjects. A lot of painters come to mind. Just go down my list of painters I like on my sidebar and you'll know what I mean.
I'm taking a workshop over four Wednesday evenings with local painter, Judy Pendergast Takacs. The theme of the workshop is to paint a local celebrity artist. Judy likes to paint people, like I do, and so I thought it would be a good opportunity, not just to learn from someone who's been at it a while, but also just to get to know someone local who has similar interests. It's so interesting to see another person's approach. Judy has a lot of skill and has a lot of good knowledge to share. She has a good way of getting to and interpreting the character of the subject, if you know what I mean. I'm really enjoying the workshop. Really, any chance I get to paint with new people and learn new things is a treat, so I'm like a kid in a candy store. Anyway, our first local celebrity artist was Loren Naji, a multi-faceted artist and gallery owner. He has some great features and a great expression and was a lot of fun to paint. I hope I did him justice. I'll probably work on it some more but I thought I'd go ahead and post it anyway since it's been a while.
I tried to keep some of the features softer in this portrait. Just an experiment towards better things. Even though most of the features are softer I tried to keep a certain amount of focus on the eyes. I think I need to get myself involved in a critique group if I can find one. I get a little unsure whether or not things are actually working.
Hmmm. Too dark? Perhaps. I do like paintings that are rather dark sometimes, for their moodiness and drama. But somehow in my studio the shadow side didn't seem quite so dark. I know when you look at dark areas for a long time the iris of your eye will open wider, letting more light in. This will allow you to see things better even when it's dark. I think that may have been what was happening here. In an effort to create a strong shadow I think my peepers were fooling me. That's why the shadow side looks a bit extreme to me now and he kind of looks like he has a black eye. Anyway, another lesson learned. There are still things I like here. The handling of the mouth, and a couple of other things, so not a total failure.
Oil on Canvas Panel - 12 x 16
Also, I think if I were going to do this painting over I would probably do a horizontal crop, something like this.
I think this works better. Hey, photoshop does a lot, but it can't cut my panel down so it fits in a frame. ;-)
My simple aim in this blog is that of a way to catalogue my progress as a painter. So to that end I will post not just what I consider my best work, but also some stinkers as they transpire. I think that an honest representation looking back will give me the best chance of gauging how far I might come.
I wasn't especially happy with the first version of Ed's Granddaughter two posts back (haven't learned how to link yet) so I thought I'd try it again with a different approach. I usually like to paint as directly as I can, while the painting is still wet. But this time I thought I'd paint from a photograph I took at the model session and paint in glazes, allowing the painting to dry between sessions.
Obviously I still have a lot to learn when it comes to glazing, but it was a good experience. One I think I might try again in the future when the mood strikes or when it seems appropriate. Anyway, here's the latest version.
Our Friday model didn't show up, and so what do you do? You corral the nearest teen and tell him he can get paid for just siting there. A teenage dream job. This young fellow probably never made such easy money, but it was well earned as he did a great job. The shadows in this portrait were the hardest. I think some people might balk at the color, but I think I like it. Shadow colors can be very hard to get just right. I'm not sure I've learned the secret, but I think if at least my values are close I can at least feel somewhat satisfied. As they say: Value does all the work, color gets all the credit. Even though you might have thought it was a painting of a girl, in fact it was a young guy with rather fine features, and I think I actually caught a decent likeness.
Another Friday painting. This time the model was our classmate Ed's granddaughter. A very bright young lady who was a great little model. Ed Byer is a really good artist himself who does phenomenal pastel paintings. He even has one in the permanent collection of the Butler museum. Anyway, thanks Ed for having your granddaughter sit for us. BTW, I must apologize for including a shot of my painting with part of my easel casting a shadow at the top. But I'm too tired at the moment to re-take it. So there you are. :-)
Not much to say here. I haven't painted too much lately so I was feeling a little rusty. I also arrived a little late so I got a late start because of set up time. This is pretty loose (or should I say rough) as it was a mad dash to finish up. Excuses, excuses.
Wahoo!! A new addition to my studio. Although I really enjoy going to the Friday open studio sessions at Bay Arts, I've really been wanting to do my own thing more at home in the comfort of my own studio, but I knew if I was going to have models sit for me one of the first things I'd need is a model stand. I don't know if a model stand is something you can just go out and buy, and even if you could I wasn't sure I'd want to spend the bucks for it (I cheap out whenever I can). So just perusing pics from other people's studios and based on what I'd seen in the past I figured I could just make one... and so I did, with the help of a neighbor and his workshop of power tools. I basically designed it and pretty much put the whole thing together myself. I think when all was said and done I spent under $75 bucks, not including the rug, and I finished the whole of the construction in one evening. Ha! Am I pleased as punch or what? Anyway, the design is exceedingly simple. I made it very sturdy and it's pretty much pine and plywood. I added some dark stain just so it wouldn't look so bare and unfinished. There are some little gaps here and there. It's not an amazing piece of furniture, but it's not bad and it's perfect for my needs.
Another recent Friday model at Bay Arts. I tried a little different approach from a color standpoint. I wanted to try to push the color a bit more. Unfortunately I think I may have over-reached. I think The skin tone in the warm areas of the face got a little too hot, to where she looks a little sun-burned. I think I'm okay with the overall handling of the paint, I'll just have to make sure I make the proper color adjustments next time. Live and learn, right?
This is a portrait sketch/study of a frequent model, Robert, that they use at Bay Arts. He has an interesting look. Although he looks a bit like he's scowling here, he's really a very genial guy. I sort of like the energy in this one and was happy to get it mostly done in one sitting. Done for a study, of course.
This one still needs a bit of touch up but overall I think I'm pleased with how this painting turned out, even though I have to say not totally. But at least it felt like a good workout, where the results aren't measured in the present, but rather in the future. In this case the positives will be felt later in terms of the experience I take away. This painting did get a lot tighter than I thought I had intended, but like I'd mentioned before it's a natural tendency so I thought I'd just go with it. Anyway, I'll probably add the photo of the updated painting at a future time, but I hadn't posted anything in a while so I thought I'd just go ahead and put this one up on my blog. I also have to add that the model, Bailey, was a great model, as were all the models at the Scottsdale workshop I attended. It really helps and makes a difference when you have an experienced model and one who was as lovely as this one.
Another mixed bag of expectation versus result. Someone once told me that Alla Prima painting is too hit or miss. At least for this person it was. I think that's true, but I kind of live for those hits. Or at least the promise of them, as they can be glorious. The likeness in this painting was off---way off! But the positive side was that I think the handling in general is fair. So there. I'm seeing the glass half-full and feeding off the positives. I definitely have been ruminating about how I plan to present myself moving forward. Or maybe it would be better if I said, what I want to project in my painting. We'll see how it pans out. I'm trying not to be too rigid at this point. Finding yourself, I think, doesn't seem to be a linear path you can plot out with a high degree of specificity. But I do have standards that whatever it is I do must reflect my initial personal inspiration. God help me.
I feel like I almost came away with a portrait this time that could have been really good. I had what I felt like was a pretty good start at the Friday open studio. Then I got it home and a couple of bad things happened. One, I let it dry. Or partially dry. Which meant that I couldn't get certain effects I wanted which would have enhanced the painting. The paint, being partially dry wouldn't receive the new paint because it was sticky, rather than slippery. You can paint wet onto dry (scumble or glaze) or you can paint wet into wet, but you can't do wet into half-wet. It sucks. But being the stubborn, impatient cuss that I am I plowed straight forward anyway. The problem areas came mostly in the hair. I feel like I can usually handle most hair okay. At least so far. But this was near disastrous. Oh well.
There were a couple of other little things that I did that were kind of, uhh... shall we say, stupid? But I'll let those pass here, because I don't think in retrospect it would be all that helpful (to me) to dredge up.
Some people might think it not a good idea to post anything like a failure on one's blog. Out there for the world to see. But I'm okay with it. I wouldn't say that this attempt was a complete failure either anyway. There are some things I am pretty pleased with. But this is an honest record that I'm keeping, mostly for myself, but also for anyone else that might profit from my experiences. I won't be putting this blog site on my business card, that's for sure. In the future I might keep a separate website that is more professional in terms of self-promotion or potential sales, but for now I feel like I'm still in the learning phase and I need to be as honest as I can.
You may not be able to tell, but both of these pieces are of the same model. The first one is done in charcoal pencil. It so happened that I hadn't gotten all of my supplies back that day from the time I'd shipped them back from Scottsdale, so I decided to just go ahead and draw. I'm glad I did because it was almost as much fun as painting. It was nice to just get back to basics and see what I could do.
The second is my usual Friday painting effort from the live model. Even though I don't blend a lot and this one is a little rough looking, I'm still kind of pleased with it. I figure I can always do more blending in the future, once I get a little better at my values and temperatures. I do have to admit though that before I was through, Tina stopped in and let me know that the eyes were a little out of place. Despite my protestations I had to admit she was right and had to reposition them. Better to just take your medicine and re-do than to have an odd looking face. I ain't doin' Picasso!
So I haven't posted much of anything in a while. But it's not because I haven't been painting at all. I have, just not as much as usual. I've been busy with other things. Life mostly. But I still try to get into my studio to paint, even if it's only for an hour or two at the end of the day. Even if I'm dog tired I still find that I want to get back to it and it usually revives me. I'm a little OCD these days when it comes to painting. I very much do want to get better and so even if I'm not actually painting I will spend a lot of my day just either thinking about it or researching great paintings and artists on the web that inspire me. One thing I discovered in my research that some may find interesting is a live stream of a drawing demo that takes place on Friday nights. The demo is put on by Jeffrey Watts, an excellent artist from California who has both an online atelier and a brick and mortar school where he and his talented staff of instructors teach. You can check out the demo here: http://www.wattsatelier.com/friday-night-live-workshop/ I know. Not everyone's idea of a rocking Friday night. But for art geeks like me it's pretty cool. Sheesh, I need serious help. Anyway, here are a few recent efforts. Each has a different level of finish, but I think that's okay because my objectives were different in each one. This first one is of a co-painter at Bay Arts. We had no model that day so he offered to sit for us. A great model he was too. This study is quite rough and loose but I did try to keep it a little more impressionistic. I don't think I'll be trying to refine it. I'll just file it in the back of my head as I think I know where my problem areas are in this one. Still I think I managed to capture a fair likeness.
The next one is also one of our Friday models. I took this one home and worked on it a bit but not that much. The photo is a tad dark as you can't even see the highlights I put into her braid. Yes, she has a braid and not just short hair. also, the color is a bit off as the light color in the background is a somewhat brighter blue. All in all fairly satisfied with this one. I played with softening the features in the face as well as keeping some of the edges softer in strategic spots.
This last one is of a beautiful young girl of Indian descent who posed at the workshop I took in Scottsdale. I did a color study while there and took some pictures too so that I could go home and finish it up. I'm not unhappy with this one but I think I may just take another crack at it and try a slightly different approach. You'll have to wait and see.
So finally a recap of my recent workshop at the Scottsdale Artists' School. The school itself is really quite an amazing place. It's not a place you go to get a degree in art, but it's really more of a continuing education kind of place, where beginners to advanced to professional working artists can learn from top-notch instructors in various disciplines of art, from watercolor, to oil paint, to sculpting, and drawing, etc. The hallways are lined with extremely good examples of both student art as well as the artwork of famous teachers like David Leffel, Kevin Beilfus, Greg Kreutz, and others. Everyone from the staff to the teachers and other students were quite friendly and helpful. There were many opportunities to sit and talk art which I loved. I got to meet and chat at length with a watercolor artist from New Jersey by the name of Mario Robinson during our lunch break who happened to be teaching there in one of the other classrooms at the same time. It was a great conversation and Mario is a very talented watercolorist in the tradition of N.C. Wyeth. He and I had similar views on art in general and it made for an "entertaining" conversation during lunch when were were sitting across from a couple of ladies that didn't necessarily share our views. But it really was all very light-hearted and we all laughed a lot so I know that no one was really offended or took it too seriously. Here are just a few examples of some of the great instructors' artwork that lines the halls of the school.
I really can't say enough about how much I enjoyed this workshop, which was entitled "The Figure In The Intimate Setting" which pretty much tells you what the focus was. The instructor for the workshop was Bryce Cameron Liston, a figure painter from Utah whose work I only discovered less than a year ago. I'll state right off that Bryce is a very open, knowledgeable, and generous teacher, as well as an accomplished painter of the figure, which I happen to love. The first day (and most every day after that) was spent watching Bryce demo his approach toward painting the figure in the morning and then the students painting in the afternoons.
Here are some pics from Bryce's demo on day one.
Bryce has a lot of knowledge as I'd mentioned, and I was ready to learn. He
managed to impart a lot of interesting exercises and information in just five
days. In the beginning of the week when it was our turn to paint he emphasized
making a strong visual statement, which meant limiting the number of clear
discernable values to around 3. This involved squinting down and unfocusing the
vision so as to eliminate extraneous detail and seeing the value distinctions
more clearly. Our assignment was to paint the model in just 3 values and no
more. Sounds easy, but it was a challenge. A good one that helped me to see
what gives a painting a stronger visual impression. One problem many
inexperienced painters make (and I count myself as one) is that their dark
values have too many things going on. Shapes will jump out within them that are
unnecessary and distracting. The same goes for the light areas. The more, it
seems, that you can keep your value distinctions tight and solid the better and
more coherent your painting will be.
After that first exercise we then moved on to painting with
a limited palette, while still keeping in mind the 3 value limit.
Note: Limiting the number of values to just 3 might seem
arbitrary. Why not 4, or 5? Bryce quoted a famous artist, can’t recall—might
have been Degas that said, once you get to the 4 or greater number of values,
your painting loses impact and that you should just “throw it out.” I’m not
sure I completely hold to this rule of thumb, but considering it was a quote
from someone with considerable experience then I feel it’s an observation worth
noting and taking seriously.
The limited palette that we used was essentially the “Zorn”
palette, which consists of Ivory Black, White, Yellow Ochre, and Cadmium Red
Middle. This was to demonstrate how it is possible to achieve a pretty large
spectrum of colors and values just mixing these four colors. Once again a
common mistake by many beginners is to put out too many colors when it’s
totally unnecessary. Also, another thing that a limited palette helps to
achieve is to help your painting cohere and look unified, rather than throwing
in a lot of superfluous color which can look distracting and unsure. These were
all things that were helpful to me as I can fall into most of these bad habits.
And although I do like great color a lot, I also feel drawn to and am intrigued by
paintings that have a more muted, even somber tonal quality. The painter Ron
Hicks comes to mind. Another artist whose palette, I think, is a great mix of
expressive and sophisticated color is Johanna Harmon.
Later on during the week we got to introduce a couple more
colors (can’t recall what they were) and were mixing fairly large pools of
paint to draw and mix from for skin tones and to keep our paintings unified. By
the end of the week we pretty much were using whatever colors we wanted. The
whole week was a nice progression that made total sense to me and I plan on
keeping it all in the forefront of my mind as I paint going forward.
A couple of other comments that Bryce made were worth noting
and remembering. One was to “paint like you’re a millionaire.” Meaning squeeze
plenty of paint out of those tubes and onto your palette. Beginners, again like
myself, will typically put out miserly little dobs of paint from which they try
to s-t-r-e-t-c-h as much paint across their canvas as is possible. They/we
mostly do this out of concern over the cost of paint, and it is understandable. Paint can be expensive. But if you want to begin to think about doing better paintings you have to get
over the cost and go for it. Put out some big ol’ piles. Better for the leftover paint
to go stale over the next day or so and throw it out than to have an anemic
One thing that was really nice to see also was that Bryce brought many personal samples with him of studies, finished paintings, and even failures that he had done. These were all for our benefit and edification and it was very helpful. All the studies were for sale and most all were quite beautiful in their own way. Here are a few example of some of the studies and finished paintings.
These next two paintings are ones that are available for sale at Legacy Gallery in Old Town Scottsdale. Legacy is one of the big galleries there so it is a testimony to the perceived quality and value of Bryce's work.
Another interesting thing that Bryce showed us was how he mounts his canvas to his support. He doesn't appear to paint on stretched canvas at all. He will either heat mount or mount his canvas with Acrylic matte gel medium, using it as a glue. The interesting thing was that he would mount these to a material called Dibond, which is what sign makers use for painting signs. It can be purchased in large sheets at signmakers supply shops and then cut on a table saw. The Dibond doesn't warp or shrink and is quite rigid which makes it very archival.
There really is lots more to tell about the workshop and trip that was very interesting, but I think what I've relayed here gives you a good taste of the experience.
One last thing that occurred while we were in Scottsdale was that Tina and I got to attend Legacy Gallery's big art auction. It was quite an event and a bit of a surreal experience. Paintings, mostly of the Western and wildlife genre covered the walls. I think the gallery has something like 10,000 square feet of space in which to display their artwork. And amazing artwork it was. Great art by famous artists both living and deceased. Artists like Morgan Weistling, Mian Situ, Bob Kuhn, Jeremy Lipking, and many, many others. Even a Remington was up for auction. And I even got to see my first Fechin in person. Fechin is one of my all time favorite artists so that was a real treat.
I want to tell you there is some serious cowboy cash in that neck of the woods. We saw paintings auctioned off for a quarter million dollars, $500,000, and even $800,000 which was what the Remington sold for. The bidding was at times wild and wooly, but it was all very exciting to witness, and it was nice to see that people still care that much about art. Yes, I know some people might have looked at it as just another investment, but the overall sense I got was that these were real art lovers who actually cared about great art. They know what they like and are willing to pay for it. Here are a few examples from the auction.
Oh and the very last thing (I promise) that I wanted to include was this short video clip that I took while Bryce was demoing and explaining what I thought was a very salient point for making a better painting. I made sure to check with him first just to make sure it was okay to post this. I hope you enjoy.