October 17, 2014


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. 
See if you can spot those tweaks. 

October 07, 2014

Italian Looking Girl

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.

Oil on Canvas Paper - 12 x 16

October 06, 2014

Slick Surface

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.

Oil on Canvas Panel - 12 x 16


October 02, 2014

Trying To Push Color

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?

Oil on Canvas Paper - 12 x 16