Friday, July 30, 2010

Diary of a Painting (continued.4)

Dear Diary:  I'm sorry I didn't get to paint much today!  Dad and I went to WalMart this morning. Then we stopped by the "curb market" (fruit stand) and bought fresh blueberries and peaches.  By the time the physical therapist was finished with mom and I had made "'mater sandwiches" for lunch, it was already almost 2 PM!  I made a pot of strong decaf (?) and chatted with Tim for a few minutes.  I was just priming the painting with Liquin when a customer came into the gallery to pick up a custom piece.  He was a nice chatty fellow, happy to talk about pottery, and talk and talk and talk.....  It was 3 PM when I laid out my paints and had just started painting when Mom called and asked where the Benadryl might be.  I told her where I thought it was and she said Dad would look for it.  Three minutes later she called again and said, nope, not there.  Okay.  Be right there.  I walked home in a gentle drizzling rain, found the Benadryl, and walked back again.  It was then 3:20. So, there it is.  I painted until 4 PM and then cleaned up.  As I was waiting for Tim to unlock the truck door for me, he checked the mailbox and found the acceptance letter from the Foundry Art Centre, informing me that two of my paintings have been accepted in the upcoming show:  Painting: The Artful Palette (August 27 - October 8.)

There will be days like this.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Diary of a Painting (continued.3)

I haven't updated this journal since the MACatastrophe last week: my iBook hard drive died.  So I headed to MAC HQ and bought a teeny tiny little iBook to take it's place until I can decide on and save for the next laptop that I wish to purchase.  In the last week I have made some real progress on the underpainting.  READ: UNDERPAINTING.  A couple of people have made comments, not realizing the early early stage the painting is in.

Canvas complete.  Ooops, the perspective on the drawing horse is all wrong.

7-29-2010 detail
I've been thinking I should have posed April in a white blouse to complete the homage to the de la Tour painting. So today I decided to just convert it to white, leaving the lavender in the shadows. I am really pleased with how this is working. I love the highlights on the sleeve. Really convincing, if you ask me. I decided to make the skirt red, too (ala Penitent Magdalena). Notice the only place I have scrumbled the red is in the direct light. I started defining the books, too. I want the spine of the "Art History" book to stand out. It may take several tries to get the right amount of text to make it believable. I really do not like painting text.

I corrected the perspective on the drawing horse and then pushed it back into the shadows. Yesterday I indicated where the cap and gown are, tossed "carelessly" at her feet. Today I defined the mortar board and tassel. Just a few cleverly applied strokes to hint at what it is. 
I apologize that these are not very good photos. My iPhone doesn't have a very good camera feature and can't balance for the high contrast levels. I will, as the painting nears the conclusion, take better quality photos. I'm just anxious to get these posted so that I can talk about it... the longer I wait, the less likely I am to journal. Wiggle around, changing your angle to your monitor, until you can see the mortar board in the lower left hand corner of the painting. Your monitor might be set at a different level than mine. I have to tilt mine to see it. Once again, these are not very representational photos.

Next, I will begin working on the flesh tones of the arms and legs, starting to build up some layers.  I will hold off working on the face until our next session. April is coming in next week to do a session.  I will paint her face during that live session, then take a photo, completing the painting from that photo.  

Friday, July 23, 2010

Diary of a Painting (continued.2)

Day Five detail

I'm trying for an Old Masters effect.  This under painting will have almost no texture or evidence of brush strokes. Almost a grissaile (an underpainting completely executed in monochrome, usually grey), I'm using a warm monochrome that ranges from a deep red-black to a light light brick-red.  

I was pretty happy with today's work.  I worked on the profile and some of the shading on the face, blocked in the hair and a lot of the background.  I worked for almost three hours.  This is slow going but really satisfying.  

I'm using raw sienna, english red, van dyke brown and indigo and a lot of Liquin medium. If you  enlarge the photo a left you will see what a great range of value and intensity I'm getting.    

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Diary of a Painting (continued)

day four

On day three I had about 20 minutes to doodle on the painting. I actually ran down to the studio to grab something and, without even turning the lights or a/c on, I grabbed a brush and "fixed" the too short legs.

Day four I spent about two hours working on correcting the legs and beginning some shading. I'm using sables and trying to blend all the brushstrokes.  I am using Liquin for my medium.  It makes the paint buttery but dries in a few hours.  It actually gets tacky in minutes and enables me to start building layers almost immediately.  I decide to not do the underpainting in monochrome.  I begin to block in some local color while pushing back the darks.  Man it's a lot of canvas to cover. I'm finally beginning to feel like I have enough established that I can come in for shorter blocks of time and not get frustrated.  I don't HAVE many large blocks of time to work in so it's quite a relief to be at this stage.  I also have to be content that it's going to take me a long time.  This is a big painting.

day four detail

Diary of a Painting

April has been my model for over a year.  She was already my pottery student, working off her lessons by helping around the studio.  One day, while I was observing her natural grace and comfortable physicality, I asked her if she would consider modeling for me.  She was surprised and flattered and very shortly after that we did our first photo session. I was right; she is a natural.  It's not just her basic good looks.  She is beautiful.  But I love her coloring and the way she moves in space and her buoyancy contrasting with her serenity. AND she can find a great pose.  I only give her the merest suggestions and then let her do her own thing.  And then she can get back in her pose and hold it for as long as I need her to.

The Penitent Madgalena ~ George de la Tour
Last year April went with her language club to Spain. While in Madrid she and a few friends toured the Prado Museum.  She brought me a post card of The Penitent Magdalene by George de la Tour which she had studied in her art history class. It's a fabulous painting about redemption and forgiveness, laden with symbols, dark and emotional.

It's now a year later. April is getting ready to go Truman State University to study Art History.  As a final project with her, I asked her if she would collaborate with me to create an homage to this wonderful painting. Of course, instead of being a penitent magdalene, she is an expectant young women, leaving the security of childhood and entering the uncertainty of the future and contemplating her choice of studies.  She agreed to meet the following Wednesday, bringing costumes and objects that are meaningful to her.

We spent most of the morning composing.  She tried on half a dozen different outfits. We felt really clever using a drawing horse instead of a table and chair because it what was conveniently on hand and also more evocative of the art field.  We set up our lighting and arranged her Art History book overshadowing her childhood readers.  And to complete the homage we gave her a candle holder and lit the candle.  I saw an image in the digital camera that was very close to our concept.  I adjusted the lighting and stopped down the lens a few times to approximate the candle light.  Got it.
day two

 Day one was a frustration of trying to lay out a grid and making it fit my canvas.  I'm lousy at math and this just didn't work out so I wiped it off.  Bah!  Day two I merely divided it into thirds across the width and fourths along the height.  It's a huge canvas: 36" X 60"  That's an amazing amount of canvas to cover.  And my easel doesn't crank all the way to the floor so I have two step stool to stand on so I can get eye level with the painting.  I really need to NAIL the perspective right off the bat.  Obviously I haven't quite gotten it yet.  And the legs aren't long enough.  I saw that as soon as I took this snap with my phone. But, it was a beginning.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


I've been working on this portrait of Eric for awhile.  I don't have a lot of time at one sitting but I have managed to put in about about 20 hours already.  The thing I loved about this sitting was the warm lighting on his face and the cool tones on his chest.... his skin looked almost translucent.  I wanted to find a way to replicate that.

The live sitting was a nice study (see earlier blog.) But the photo that I took of the session was beautiful and moody and dark and really inspired me to do another painting working from the photo.  I uploaded the images from my camera, tweaked them in PS, and then printed a couple out.  I'm ALWAYS disappointed in the results of the printer.  But I thought that with the original study and the images together I could get close to what I wanted. 

Then I got a brilliant idea.  I got my hands on our old PC and hooked it up on the table beside my easel with the monitor sitting on top of it and began paint off the monitor.  What a delight!  I opened a couple of photos from the session and now I can push and pull the values, zoom in and out as much as I want, and tweak the hue if needed.  Wish I had done this before.  It is fabulous.

Over the last year I have really gotten bold with mixing the skin tones.  Today I woke up from a nap with the idea of mixing raw ochre with dioxyzine purple for the skin tones.  That really started adding some life likeness to the build up. Also I have been using Liquin as a medium and absolutely learning to love it.  It makes the paints really move a lot but dries overnight so I build layers quickly. 

I'm also really happy to be learning how to paint at the drop of a hat.  I really don't have a lot of concentrated time to paint and the most time consuming part of oil painting is laying out the palette and cleaning it up.  And I don't care what system is advertised: they don't keep paints wet for long.  So I've got a nice little cigar box with a tight fit and a brass clasp that I fitted a pane of glass for.  I lay out my paints in there but mix them on a bigger pallette.  But when I'm ready to paint I pop open my homemade pochade and paint as little or as long as I like and then snap it shut when I'm done.  I still have to scrape down my bigger palette but that's not a problem.  Like a plein air painter, ready to go at the moment's notice.  Hope you like it.  More soon.