Friday, November 22, 2013

Open Studio: Every Portrait and Figurative Artist's Best Friend

Open studios happen every day, everywhere more than one artist gathers. It's just a shared environment where artists bring their materials, and jointly share the cost of a model, who will sit for usually 3 hours (although many open studios are offering longer sittings,,which I personally love) The 3- hour sitting usually offers about 2+ hours of actual painting time, after model breaks.

There are a number of artists I can think of  who regularly produce spectacular works in the 3 hr time slot (for example, Harley Brown, Mary Whyte, Shane Neal, John Howard Sanden, Michael Carter - I could go on and on...) , but most artists need more time, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. In fact it is a  liberating experiences to say to yourself:,  "I have three hours, to work on doing one thing really well." It might be just working on drawing, or on color, or on values. Doesn't matter. What does matters is that your time at the easel is productively spent, so that when you pack up, you can say that you did just one thing just a bit better. The result on your canvas has nothing to do with the value of your time in open studio.

And no matter how frequently or well an artist paints from photographs, without refreshing your eye and brain by working from life,you'll get rusty. So in any case, when I am able, I paint with a great group of artists in Prescott on Friday mornings. This is from this morning, Carl. Terrific model, gentlemanly and at home in his wintry western garb, with a hat rivaling the Canadian Mounties.I took photos at three different point.

Step 1 Drawing and measuring. I will usually devote the first 20 minute sitting to simply placing marks, and developing a visual road map.

Step 2. Laying in color. My goal for this morning was to experiment with more dramatically pushing cools and warms in the skin tones.

Step 3. Modeling the color patches into shapes. Then I ran out of time. But man, was this ever fun.

and below, BTW was last week's model Kelsey. Both are 20 x 16, oil on Fredrix Blue Label Polyflax canvas. I used Gamblin's new Solvent-free Gel Medium on both paintings as well.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Plein Aire with Dave Santillanes in Sedona, AZ October 2013

Three days of excellent instruction, followed by the Sedona Plein Aire Arts Festival's opening paint-out made me one lucky painter. Although arrival day found me in a seedy motel (looked OK on the internet), I was treated to an almost-full moonrise and a gorgeous sunrise.

Day 1. Dave Santillanes's workshop 
I had the good fortune to meet Dave last spring at the Oil Painters of America show - he is a terrific painter, a lovely man, and, as I quickly discovered, a superb instructor.  For a portrait painter to tackle an open landscape is kind of overwhelming, but Dave was able to present a structured and logical approach that was both simple and sophisticated, if that makes sense. Our first afternoon out was at a location known as Schnebly Hill Road (which, BTW, is a glorious way to travel the Sedona-Flagstaff route, if you have a 4- wheel vehicle and a bit of nerve).

Days 2 and 3. Return to Schnebly Hill Road in the morning, then to Dry Creek Vista for the afternoon/next  am sessions.

Both locations are within about 10 minutes of downtown Sedona, and very easily accessible. Below, Dave doing another beautiful demo and working with one of the students.

It's impossible to imagine the beauty of this AZ mountain town if you haven't been there in person.

Saturday, Plein Aire paint-out, scattered along Sedona's Main Street

Below, Artists Josh Been and Bill Cramer knocking out fabulous demos; in my role as umbrella holder; and artist Brad Holt enjoying Dave's demo.

Above, our group, sitting on what, according to a guide with two tourists, insisted was The. Most.Amazing. Vortex. If you have your crystal with you. (I think the tour runs some $295 per couple.) Really.

Lest anyone worry that the event was too relaxing, it was, as you can see, essential  to closely review the principles of atmospheric perspective from the viewpoint of the not-seedy hotel into which I moved right after that sunrise. My college roommate dashed over from the coast to hang out in Sedona for a few days and she insisted that I do this homework. It was not my idea.


And, artist friends, did you realize that absinthe is now legal again? We had to taste it to be sure, and I can see how it might have made Hemingway crazy (rumored to have started each day with a glassful of absinthe and a champagne chaser, and you can see how well that ended for him)  This pretty little decanter (more info here for the inquiring mind ) seems to be an essential part of the process.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC, and a trip to the Eastern Market

Despite fairly constant rain and the government shutdown, the Corcoran Gallery stood out as a jewel among a weekend of wonderful events. This smallish gallery has an exquisite American/European collection of paintings and sculpture. I'd have to say that while I was wowed with so many of the paintings, my jaw just dropped when I turned to see the Veiled Nun (Giuseppi Croff), which is sculpted from marble. I can't describe how much I wanted to touch this piece, and I am mesmerized wondering how in the world this was created. I'll have to ask my sculptor friends for some input. Seriously,  LOOK at this.

One of my all-time favorite painters is Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema; this tiny gem, "A Difficult Line from Horace" was a sparkler; you can see the painting's scale in comparison to my hand.

The two matching portraits of George Washington (flanking the larger painting) were both painted by Gilbert Stuart, who painted the original, from-life portrait -which itself is in the National Portrait Gallery (closed this weekend due to the government shut-down). There were two of the perhaps 75? replicas Stuart painted from his original, which  remained undelivered past his deadline (when George and Martha were still  alive), past the Washingtons' deaths, and even past his own death. He used his 'delayed delivery' time wisely, selling off the other 73 or so to finance a lush lifestyle. I'll have to fact check all of these details when I review my September notes from John  Howard Sanden's fabulous lecture on the Presidential  Portraits).

No trip to DC would be complete without protesters along the fences facing the White House. Sign painters always planning ahead.

...and finally, barbarians at the gate.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Checking out the Value Viewer App

At the Oil Painters of America meeting last spring, I met artist Lori Putnam (whose work, BTW, is fabulous and light-filled) - she and her husband Mark have developed an IPhone app called the Value Viewer. It is a tool designed to assist artists in composition, allowing both gray-scale and notan options. The gray-scale option lets the user consider different compositional patterns by the collapsing and redistribution of light and dark values in a given scene; the notan option forces all into shapes into black and white without middle values.

So, equipped with some brand new hiking sneakers - which I bought to augment my pretty much non-existing plein-air wardrobe*, preparing for Dave Santillanes's plein air workshop in Sedona - and my phone, here are some pics and what I played with...

First, the vertical shot...

 Then a horizontal pic:

Here is the Notan (B/W) version:

 I have a LOT to learn about how to use this app, but I think it is fun, and should be a good adjunct to the classic and always reliable pencil thumbnail sketch.

My little walk didn't include a trail, but I could see where I wanted to get, so a little bit of baby bushwhacking let me cross the creek and here was the reward:)

This was in the same Prescott area as the hike I took with my bridge buddies a few weeks ago..I am including this video just because it reminds me of a very funny and fun excursion. Thanks to Suzanne for
 your funny video:)

*I think that this might be a fashion joke, ie the notion of plein-air wardrobe, but it will require much more research on my part - I'll get back to you on that . And a PS, Lori is teaching in Sedona the same days as my workshop with Dave - wish I could attend both:)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"Soraya" : accepted into "Women Painting Women (R)evolution 2013 Juried Exhibition" .


It's really an honor to be included in this show - there were over 520 submissions representing 26 states across the US, Canada, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and the Philippines.

From Townsend Atlelier, Chatanooga, TN:

"Juror Ellen Simak conducted a blind jury (i.e. all artists/images were presented to her numerically without artist names) and she selected a show of 36 incredibly strong works from all over the world."

The opening reception is September 7, 2013, from 2:00-8:00 p.m. with a live painting demonstration "Art Throw Down" between artists Cindy Procious and Mia Bergeron. The show runs through September 28.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Artists' Magazine Article, "On the Threshold"

I've had some request to share this article on understanding and painting the subtle differences as subjects move from childhood through adolescence, into young adulthood. Originally printed July 2010, Artists' Magazine. If you have difficulty reading it, let me know and I'll be happy to email it to you:)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Making of Judge Linda Ann Wells's Portrait

On July 11, 2013, I attending the unveiling of my portrait of Chief Judge Wells, Third District Court of Appeal, in Miami. Over the course of this commission, I came to know Judge Wells and her husband on not just a 'business-as-usual' basis, but as the gracious and generous couple they are.

Here are some photos of the process:

Above, oil sketch on stretched oil-primed linen. I spend a LOT of time working out the figure placement and composition before ever picking up a brush.

Above, the first thing I do in preparing to paint any part of my subject is to commit to a color and value for the background -it's nearly impossible for me to make any remotely accurate judgement about skin tones without adjacent color and value context. In this case, at the photo sitting,I had made the decision to light Judge Wells with a cool artificial light (6500 * K), to bring out the silvery tones in her hair and clothing.

 Above,  I've worked the skin tones and likeness far enough to begin working on the rest of the canvas, and left most of the hair still unpainted, so that I could go back in wet-in-wet to control the edges of the hair against skin and against background..

Above, I've painted the robe, so as to set up the edges that will be integrated with the hands and blouse.
Below, detail of Judge Wells's hands. She is wearing her West Point ring, and an antique bracelet.

The finished portrait below. From the early planning stages, I used areas of  both soft and crisp lights to move the eye around the canvas, all in support of my focal point. The orchids were in Judge Wells's office and I just managed their value, exact placement and edges to establish a rhythm to the surface.

Judge Wells is the first female Chief Judge in the District's history. I thought that the orchids brought a bit of femininity to the concept, atop some of her legal books.

Montgomery Frames in Tempe, AZ did a fantastic job making the frame - I couldn't have been more thrilled! I stretched the linen on to heavy duty stretcher bars, so Dave at Montgomery added sufficient extra depth to the frame so that it would hang flush on the wall, instead of canting forward.

...and here she is on the courtroom wall:

...and of course a very short video of the unveiling:

Monday, July 15, 2013

Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens, Southern Florida July 10, 2013

My Aunt Mai and I had planned to see the Boca Art Center's Florida Juried Art show, but when we got to the museum it was closed for repair - instead she took me to the Morikami Garden in nearby Delray Beach - what serendipity!

"Wood Be: Kindred Spirits" was on exhibit, as were the ongoing Tanabata events, neither of which had I ever heard.  The Robert J Brokup Kokeshi doll collection was beautiful, with a variety of very simple wood-turned forms, some of which were long and sylph like, some Botero- like. Many had a wind-swept sense of  movement.

Here are some of my favorites:

The garden walk takes about an hour, everything just exactly perfect. It would be a perfect place for lazy  pleine-aire painters since so much of the composition is already done and edited:)

I don't know what it is with me and heart-shaped trees lately, but they seem to be everywhere.

Here's an open heart:

... a full heart:

and for the oblivious-at-heart, a literal heart:

which, incidentally, was next to a sign that said, "Thank you for not carving on the bamboo trees."  Sigh.

Here you can listen to the sounds of the bamboo stalks moving against each other in the wind - some sounds are creaky, some are squeaky. 

The Kokeshi exhibit runs through September 15, 2013.