Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Gamblin Dedicated Workshop Instructor

I am so honored to join the Gamblin Company as a Dedicated Workshop Instructor! As my students and artist friends, know, I have used and loved Gamblin's materials for many years and am now able to offer even more to my students - through free samples, in-depth information and new products as they come on the market. Recently I wrote an article for Artists' Magazine (April 2014) on Gamblins' new Solvent-free Gel Medium - which has now become the only medium I use.

If I can help answer any questions for you, please just contact me!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Painting the Lovely Julie - Six step all prima portrait study

How lucky was I this morning to find that Julie was modeling at the Mountain Artists' Guild Open Studio!?
Julie modeled for my recent Prescott workshop and although I didn't get to paint her, I did have benefit of studying her face from many angles, over many hours' time. Below is my morning study.

Step 1: Size and place the head. Drawn with Raw Umber, thinned with a bit of Gamblin's Solvent-free Gel Medium.

Step 2: Separate light and shadow; commit to the background.

Step 3: Block in general skin tones, one for light and one for shadow.

Step 4: Add some detail to the features.

Step 5:  Develop the forms of the face and hair, and continue with detail.

Step 6: Refine transitions, correct drawing mistakes, run out of time:)

Julie, oil, 20 x 16

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Burton Silverman: American Artist

With my most heartfelt thanks to Michael Gormley, Julia Baughman and everyone at Portraits, Inc. for making this wonderful article a reality!

The third in my series of portraits of my mentors and artist friends who have made a positive impact in my art life - Burt Silverman is truly my view of an American icon in the art world, and a man who embodies authenticity in every aspect of what he does.


American Artist Project: How to Paint the Master

By Michael Gormley

 Portrait of Burton Silverman, oil, 28" x 28"

Like an exploding universe in a creationist narrative, our rapidly expanding and fragmenting contemporary art world has birthed an array of focused constellations comprising like-minded souls connected by a shared singleness of purpose. Painters and patrons primarily interested in realist representation and the human form comprise one such magnetic grouping. Like an actual solar system (metaphorically speaking), this mass of independent bodies seeks out and encircles radiant energy sources--the rare stars that shine brightly in the darkness.
Imagine now (in living color) the concentric rings and artistic circles buzzing around Burton Silverman-- the ever wise master artist and attentive mentor to countless hopeful painters.  Can you further imagine expressing the essence of that guiding light in a painting?  Chris Saper has; she has just completed a stunning portrait of her beloved Silverman—the third work in a series of portraits she has painted of artist colleagues and mentors that have had a significant impact on her artistic life.  Saper remarks, “How better to express my appreciation and gratitude to these artists than to paint them.”

A tall order indeed, yet if Silverman’s portrait is any indication, Saper’s subjects are in for a big treat and not a few surprises.  Right off, she gets high marks for nailing Silverman’s knowing wit and peerless gaze.  Yup, it’s Silverman all right-- looking straight at you and through you as only Silverman can.  Saper adds, “I first met Burt Silverman nearly 20 years ago and subsequently studied with him at the Scottsdale Artists School. He remains a daily inspiration, both for his work and for the man he is.  The challenge of painting Burt was managing the insecurity that he would find the work lacking.  It was a real struggle to keep the creation of the work separate from his response to it.  But that’s the inherent risk in painting my mentors – with whom I’ve shared the paintings – is to be able to take in any insights they might have without subjugating the portraits to their opinions. They are my mentors – I am not theirs. I have described Burt as brilliant, charming and delightfully irreverent.  I trust him to be direct about his response.”

One such response Silverman made about his portrait is testament to his keen sensitivity in regards to aesthetic choices, the chase after verisimilitude, and genuine plastic expression. Saper notes that Silverman (quoting the great John Sloan) questioned the painting's compositional value range.  She adds, “He asked me if the work had an underlying design scheme and if that painterly expression was dynamic enough to support my intention for the work to have life.”  I applaud the question and I’ll risk stating that Saper rises to the occasion.  The work offers a wonderful play of light and dark passages which focuses Silverman’s head and tilts it forward into the picture plane and (symbolically) the viewer’s space.  This ‘leaning in’ gesture is intimate – perhaps too intimate.  Saper guesses correctly that some viewers (like her) may find this full frontal engagement with the Sage a little invasive.  Our eyes need a place to wander—or we’ll abandon the work.  So Saper situates Silverman within a compositional scheme that keeps our eyes moving within the picture frame.  But be forewarned-- the lighted window situated in the rear is but a temporary repose as the march of paintings up the far wall are meant to bring our eyes back in lock with Silverman’s.

Hence, there is a larger narrative being worked out with the Silverman painting than employing portraiture as a genuine means to pay homage to an adored master (though at first glance it is certainly that). The Silverman portrait demonstrates that the student has gone beyond learning the master’s lessons--she has made them her own.  How does that idea get translated pictorially?  In this instance Saper offers an optical pathway that tames the master’s gaze and thereby neutralizes his critique.

The artist is now free.  Well not really; the ascending challenge now shifts to the artist assuming a self-imposed responsibility to hold culture’s course and advance the practice of excellence—be that painting or portraiture or any expressive art form. Saper concludes, “Painting Burt carried for me both challenge and freedom. Certainly freedom, because my goal was not to please him with a commission, where my ability to pay my Visa bill hangs in the balance…but precisely because it does not.  My freedom lay in envisioning, designing and executing a piece that caused me to stretch artistically, and to convey what was in my heart and mind.”

Notes on the American Artist Project:
Burt Silverman's portrait is the third piece in Saper's American Artists series.  She expects there will be 7 or 8 paintings in the series.  Most of the portraits are of colleagues who are also mentors, but will also include artists who have had a non-mentoring but positive impact on her art life.  They are all entitled, "XXX: American Artist."  To date Saper has painted portraits of Kirk Larsen and William Whitaker, and has reference photos ready to go for portraits of Ann Manry Kenyon, John Howard Sanden and Jamie Lee McMahan.  For more information about Chris Saper, contact Portraits, Inc. by phone at 800-476-1223 or by e-mail at info@portraitsinc.com.
Michael Gormley is a painter, writer, curator and regular contributor to the Portraits, Inc. blog.  Gormley was the editor of American Artist magazine and most recently created the fine art catalog for Craftsy--an online education platform.

Portraits, Inc. was founded in 1942 in New York on Park Avenue. Over its 70-year history, Portraits, Inc. has carefully assembled a select group of the world’s foremost portrait artists offering a range of styles and prices. Recognized as the industry leader, Portraits, Inc. provides expert guidance for discerning clients interested in commissioning fine art portraits.

Open Studio, Mountain Artists Guild, Prescott, AZ

Some quick steps from yesterday's session - a warm light source underscored our model's strong Hispanic features, oil, 20 x 16